At the inquiry into British press ethics in London last month, celebrities such as Hugh Grant, Sienna Miller, J.K. Rowling and Charlotte Church stated that stalking by paparazzi made them feel “under siege,” and that they blamed friends for information leaks now known to have been the result of media secretly hacking into their cell phones. - News stories
JUDGE Brian Leveson: (Greeting a roomful of press and lawyers) Good morning. Today, the inquiry into media ethics will introduce to the court a beloved figure whose life was also upended by the machinations of Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper empire. Will Mr. S. Claus please stand up and identify himself?
(A short, plump man in a red suit and hat rises at a long table and nods to the room)
Judge: Mr. Claus, you have a few different aliases, do you not?
Santa Claus: Yes, I’m called Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Pere Noel, Julemanden, Kanakoloka, and Noel Baba, among other things, but calling me Santa Claus is easiest. Am I right or am I right? Actually, I’m always right. (Chuckles)
Judge: Ditto. (Sternly) Are you aware that last year I sent you a handwritten letter requesting the complete Harry Potter DVD series as well as the books and the mini replica of Hogwarts?
Santa: (Even more sternly) Yes, but I gave them to your nephew Alfie instead because, at 58, you are too old to be hooked on Harry. Get a girlfriend.
Judge: (Uncomfortably) Ha! Quite. I was only testing. At any rate, for the purposes of this inquiry, I’d like to focus on your dealings with Mr. Murdoch’s publication, News of the World. When did they begin?
Santa: Oh, gosh – whenever News of the World was founded, I guess, which was 1843-ish. Things between us were fine back then.
Judge: And when did they start going downhill?
Santa: I guess it was the early 1980s, after Rupert Murdoch bought the News and turned it into a tabloid. Stories about me are really better suited to broadsheet coverage – I’m not one for appearing topless, for one thing, for obvious reasons. Ho ho ho! Also, I use no drugs, commit no crimes. I’m blander than buttermilk.
Judge: What sorts of stories did the tabloid run about you, then?
Santa: Oh, they reported on silly spats I’d had on the phone with Mrs. Claus about what she calls my “disastrous” sense of direction. Or the fact that one of my kids failed a sleigh-driving test because he was eggnog-impaired. The photographs accompanying the story would always feature a fake Santa -- some other white-bearded fellow guzzling beer or slapping an old woman or cursing at a child. They once showed a Santa lookalike leering at Pamela Anderson in one of her typical get-ups. I kind-of wish that really had been me, but let’s keep that under our hats.
Judge: (Coughing) Your dealings with the News of the World were reasonably civilized, then?
Santa: I didn’t say that. Their stupid stories were one thing. It was how they used my sleigh that really rotted my reindeer.
Judge: Please explain.
Santa: Over the past few decades my eight tiny reindeer complained every Dec. 24th that the sleigh was getting heavier by the year. We couldn’t figure out the cause until 2009, when we discovered several of Murdoch’s fat, slovenly “reporters,” who had strapped themselves underneath the floorboards so they could spy on families the world over. We did some digging – reindeer are excellent at that – and found that they’d also been intercepting letters to Santa, changing people’s requests so they got the opposite of what they’d asked for. So my information-gathering was skewed and I was flying around giving everybody insulting presents.
Judge: Can you give me some examples, Mr. Claus?
Santa: I gave Kim Kardashian a burka instead of the diamond-encrusted bikini she had in mind, Justin Beiber a jar of moustache wax instead of the paint-by-numbers set he wanted, and George Clooney a book called She’s Just Not That Into You. And those were just a handful of celebrities. I also offended countless people whom the tabloids deemed “nobodies.”
Judge: (Smirking) None of these was a life-threatening situation, though, was it?
Santa: No, but I do stake my reputation on my gift-giving accuracy. And if anybody is supposed to have cornered the market on spying, it’s me. “He sees you when you’re sleeping/He knows when you’re awake” was not written about Rupert Murdoch, whatever he may claim. It was humiliating. (Sighing) Still, as is my wont, I forgave Murdoch his transgressions and this year I’m leaving him something lovely in his stocking.
Judge: Oh, really? What’s that?
Santa: (Putting a finger to his lips and winking) Shhhhh….The New York Times.