Tony Blair has refused to comment on his friendship with Wendi Deng, amid continuing allegations he had an affair with the ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch, the billionaire owner of Sky TV, 20th Century Fox, and newspapers such as The Sun, is in the process of finalising his divorce from Deng.
Blair, who is godfather to Deng's children with Murdoch, has always denied claims he had a relationship with Deng.
Despite this, the claims have continued to circulate, and Blair has now discussed them the first time as part of a lengthy interview with The Economist.
According to the article, Murdoch no longer speaks to Blair:
The company that Mr Blair keeps does not endear him to many of his compatriots, either. Earlier this year, in an episode that brought joy to the British press, Rupert Murdoch ended his long-standing relationship with the former prime minister over suspicions that he had had an affair with Wendi Deng, then Mr Murdoch's wife. According to sources at NewsCorp, Mr Murdoch pressed the "mute" button during a confrontational phone call, informed colleagues that he was getting "politicians' answers" to his questions, and has never spoken to Mr Blair (who is godfather to one of the couple's children) since.
When Blair was asked about allegations of an affair, he became sweaty, the magazine said:
Mr Blair roundly denies any impropriety. Asked whether he was (at least) careless about his reputation, he says calmly that it is "not something I will ever talk about—I haven't and I won't", and then bangs his coffee cup so loudly into its saucer that it spills and everyone in the room jumps. But did he find himself in a tangle over his friendship with Ms Deng? A large, dark pool of sweat has suddenly appeared under his armpit, spreading across an expensive blue shirt. Even Mr Blair's close friends acknowledge that the saga damaged him—not least financially, since Mr Murdoch stopped contributing to Mr Blair's faith foundation and cut him off from other friendly donors in America.
Earlier this year Vanity Fair published a personal note it claimed was written by Deng about Blair.
"Whatever why I'm so so missing Tony," it read. "Because he is so so charming and his clothes are so good. He has such good body and he has really really good legs Butt . . . And he is slim tall and good skin."
Murdoch himself later told Fortune magazine that he regretted that the purported note had been made public in the Vanity Fair piece.
Murdoch also said he commenced divorce proceedings after hearing of unspecified allegations from staff at the family ranch in California.
"Well, you know, everybody was talking about these things and never telling me anything. I don't really want to go into this," he said in April. "But then I was told two pretty circumstantial things about the ranch. I was in Australia. When I got back, I naturally asked the staff, and it opened up. That's the story. And then, you know, a week later I filed. As soon as I could find a lawyer."
In 2013, Tony Blair's office told The Hollywood Reporter there was no truth in the claims, saying: "If you are asking if they are having an affair, the answer is no."
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at email@example.com.
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