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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A pie of foam and a ‘very good left hook’

A pie of foam and a 'very good left hook'

From The International Herald Tribune:

LONDON — In a bizarre interlude Tuesday in what Rupert Murdoch had already called the ''most humble day of my life,'' an interloper roughly shoved a plate full of foam into the publisher's face during his parliamentary testimony, causing shock and momentary chaos in the hearing room.

Mr. Murdoch, who is 80, was sitting at a table in a committee room in Portcullis House, an office building near Parliament, listening to a question addressed to his son James, who was sitting to his right, when a man approached from a seat four rows back and calmly threw the foam pie.

As people surrounding the elder Mr. Murdoch leapt to their feet, one of the quickest to react was his 42-year-old wife, Wendi Deng, who had been sitting directly behind him. Videos show her leaping straight at the attacker and slapping him — the sound of the slap is clearly heard — before falling to the floor, carried by her own momentum.

As onlookers gasped, and James Murdoch sat stunned, guards and police rushed to apprehend the man. The words ''This is an outrage,'' spoken by someone unidentifiable, are heard on the videotape. It was unclear how the attacker had managed to smuggle the foam pie into the room.

James Kirkup of The Daily Telegraph, who was sitting about 10 feet away, wrote that the attacker swore at Mr. Murdoch before striking him.

''What you might not have seen,'' Mr. Kirkup wrote on the Telegraph's Web site, ''is the full instinctive and furious reaction of Mr. Murdoch's wife, Wendi. Having sat through the evidence unsmiling, she moved faster than anyone else. First, she swung a slap at her husband's attacker. She followed up by picking up the plate and trying to strike him with it. She moved back to her husband,'' wiping foam from his face.

Mr. Murdoch's mood had seemed to vary between grim and dour through much of the meeting, but he managed a wry smile when one member of Parliament, Tom Watson, a Labour Party member, told Mr. Murdoch: ''Your wife has a very good left hook.''

The Guardian newspaper identified the attacker as a comedian and activist known as Jonnie Marble who, shortly before the incident, had written on Twitter: ''It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat.'' There was no official confirmation of his identity.

The committee chair, John Whittingdale, suspended the hearing for 10 minutes, and when it resumed members of the panel thanked Mr. Murdoch for his ''courage'' and ''huge guts'' in agreeing to continue his testimony. But when the hearing resumed, he looked particularly thin and a bit shaken, having removed his splattered suit jacket.

A growing list of prominent politicians, athletes, entertainers and businesspeople, from Bill Gates and Andy Warhol to Jean-Luc Godard, have been victims of public pie attacks, sometimes at the hands of provocateurs who say they like to target people who take themselves too seriously.

''Given the passions Mr. Murdoch evokes, it may be that there are some people who think that some sort of rough justice has been done today,'' Mr. Kirkup wrote.

''Personally, sitting ten feet away, all I saw was an 80-year-old man, trying to have a civil conversation, being struck in the face.''

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