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Murdoch Editor On Roger Ailes: "A Fat Old Man Who Sat By The Fire Drinking Red Wine With Rupert”

“I just always saw him as a fat old man who sat by the fire drinking red wine with Rupert”.

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Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull stood surrounded by dust-covered books at the NSW parliament on Friday, ruminating about the state of the news media and the challenges posed by the internet.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

Turnbull was launching the memoirs of Chris Mitchell, the man who edited what's widely considered to be one of Rupert Murdoch's favourite newspapers in his media empire, The Australian from 2002-15.

"Increasingly we move into a world where narrowcasting is possible," said Turnbull.

"This of course began with cable television, and the internet has supercharged that. We run the risk that everybody gets the news service that they want. That confirms their prejudices and position rather than challenging it to a balanced analysis."

Turnbull went on to echo the words of the man whose book he was launching, sledging his once-favourite social media platform, referring to the "frenzy and fury of the echo chamber of Twitter".

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

The prime minister had been tapped by Mitchell to launch his book, most likely because Turnbull was the only former federal leader Mitchell hadn't ragged on in his memoir.

In Mitchell's Making Headlines, the former broadsheet editor divulges saucy stories of sauna meetings with Kevin Rudd, recalls Julia Gillard marking up one his front pages in red pen, and recounts the night Tony Abbott allegedly came to his house guzzling red wine and questioning the intelligence of his own treasurer, Joe Hockey.

The editor has copped heat from media commentators for "betraying" his sources and blurring the convention of what's "on the record" by exposing the behaviour of the former prime ministers.

On Friday, Mitchell laughed off the journalistic-ethical concerns, making a joke at the expense of some of his former News Corp colleagues in the UK, proclaiming proudly, "Well, I never hacked a phone!"

Mark Di Stefano/BuzzFeed

He used his final words to thank News Corp for the "privilege" of running its newspapers for a decade or two.

"I have had fun... reflecting on what a privilege a quarter of a century editing newspapers was. I thank News Corp for that privilege".

When Mitchell took a seat to sign some books — the cover of which shows Mitchell standing beside a smiling Rupert Murdoch — people lined up with multiple copies.

Mark Di Stefano/BuzzFeed

Two reporters approached Mitchell to ask questions about the book and working as part of the global Murdoch empire.

Mitchell was asked, "have you ever met Roger Ailes?"

Ailes is the disgraced former boss of Fox News, who like Mitchell, became a symbolic titan of one of Murdoch's most valued media properties.

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

This year Ailes' career came undone amid dozens of allegations of sexual assault and mistreatment of Fox News female employees.

Responding to the quesion as he was signing, Mitchell cracked a smile and replied, "yeah, but I don't really see it".

“I just always saw him as a fat old man who sat by the fire drinking red wine with Rupert”.

Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at

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