Leveson Inquiry: Steve Coogan Says He Never Entered A 'Faustian Pact' With The Press

Steve Coogan

The Huffington Post UK   First Posted: 22/11/11 15:07 Updated: 22/11/11 16:27

Comedian Steve Coogan has told the inquiry into phone hacking that while he was no "paragon of virtue" he never entered into a "Faustian pact" with journalists, as he launched a stinging attack on the behaviour of the tabloid press.

Giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry into press ethics on Tuesday, Coogan said in his experience the tabloids were like the "mafia" and would go to great lengths to secure a good story.

He said he had been pursued by journalists for the last 10 years seeking to write various "kiss and tell" stories about, among other things, his relationships with women.

"I have never set myself up as a paragon of virtue. I do what I do and that's what I like to judged on, my work," he said.

"One could argue that there are those who make their career out of being famous and those people do enter into a Faustian Pact, where they use the press to raise their profile. They exploit the press for their own ends."

He added: "They are in the fame game."

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Coogan, best know for the Alan Partridge character, said that journalists would go through his bins and phone family members pretending to be people they were not.

He told the inquiry that one journalist, Paul McMullan from the News of the World, admitted to him before they both appeared on Newsnight recently that he was one of the journalists who doorstepped him.

Coogan said: "He told me 'I used to sit outside your house' which is very nice to know."

The comedian also recounted one incident when he believed the News of the World went back on its word not to publish details about an affair he had.

Coogan said he was promised by journalist Rav Singh, who he considered "a casual friend", that the paper would omit the more lurid details of the story if the actor would confirm the basic facts.

According to Coogan the then editor of the paper, Andy Coulson, decided to go back on his reporter's word and run the story in full.

"It's like the mafia, it's just business," Coogan said.

CLICK HERE FOR WITNESS LIST SLIDESHOW

Coogan said some form of privacy law should be introduced to protect "genuine public interest journalism".

"If the press suddenly have a damascene conversion and started to behave themselves that would be great … but that would perhaps me be being naive again," he said.

"Whatever is in place needs to be wieldy and people should be able to use it whether they have money or not."

He said: "For that reason there needs to be a privacy law so genuinely investigative journalism isn't besmirched by tawdry muckraking."

Coogan added: "None of these stories about me can be described as being in the public interest."

Earlier on Tuesday Elle Macpherson's former adviser Mary-Ellen Field recounted how she was fired after the supermodel wrongly believed she had leaked stories to the press about her private life.

The stories were later believed to have been obtained by journalists hacking into Macpherson's voicemail.

The inquiry also heard from former premier league footballer Garry Flitcroft, who said he believed the Sunday People had hacked his phone in order to obtain stories alleging he had extra-marital affairs.


Steve Coogan was the last witness for Tuesday. Tomorrow the Inquiry will hear from Sheryl Gascoigne, Gerry McCann, Mark Lewis and Tom Rowland, starting at 10am.

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In a final comment, Coogan tells Leveson why he (and Hugh Grant) have given evidence:"This is not the Steve and Hugh show. We're here because someone has to represent all those other people who haven't the stomach to be here...Of course, there is a personal element to it but it's not just about us, it's about other people."

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"Transgressions [by the media] need to be punished meaningfully. Some newspapers... can afford to take the hit."

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"I wish there was no need for regulation outside of the press. I wish the press were able to regulate themselves but they have been given many opportunities and failed. If they had a Damascene conversion and behaved themselves that would be great, but I think that's me being naive again."

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@ Selkie : Coogan talking about interview, published by the Daily Mail, he gave to a journalist who is a friend of his #leveson

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Coogan made his position on privacy clear to Piers Morgan. He adds that he hasn't pursued some claims becasue he doesn't want to expend all his energy on such things. Also, the system of redress - legal action - is expensive. No confidence in the PCC's effectiveness either particularly when Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, sits on the Commission.

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Piers Morgan interviewed Coogan for GQ, Jan 2006, that was reprinted in 2011 to commemorate release of Alan Partridge memoirs. The interview was held in an 'excruciatingly trendy club in Soho'. "Yes, he chose the venue," Coogan jokingly replies to Jay.

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Coogan disappointed about interview with him in the Sunday Times. Hoped a more serious newspaper would have given a better impresison of him. Says he was 'naive' to think so. Also, upset about a picture of him and his children that accompanied the article.

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Coogan discloses that he tries to "avoid publicity as much as possible" but has a publicist to help with appearances that may be contractually required. Repeats that he doesn't appear on panel shows, etc.

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Coogan a 'little' concerned about giving evidence to Leveson because of possible consequences from the media. Other celebrities also 'fear what will happen' if they give evidence, he says, before adding that "my closet is empty of skeletons", so has less to fear.

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@ benfenton : Jay says headline had inverted commas because quoting someone else. #coogan says defence is basically punctuation. #leveson

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Coogan attacking the Mail for a story in 2007 about his friend and fellow actor, Owen Wilson, entitled: Coogan the Barbarian: The Truth about the man blamed for leading Owen Wilson to the brink of suicide. He says the story is complete fabrication and any 'cursory' checking by the newspaper would have discovered that.

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@ rosschawkins : Coogan at #leveson : it's like the mafia, it's just business, can't recall how many kiss and tells gave targeted him

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@ Selkie : Coogan describes Mulcaire's surveillance. Said his notebooks had amounts of cash he got from ATM, how he paid hotel bill etc #leveson

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Coogan laughs when he's asked how many kiss and tell stories he's been involved with. "Several," he says.

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Coogan tells Leveson about a sting operation that involved News of the World Editor Andy Coulson and a girl who was going to discuss intimate details with him. Was tipped off about the impending call so managed to avoid a story being written.

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Journalists went into pubs that Coogan frequented asking his friends if they knew him and offering money for stories.

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Coogan tells Leveson: "I have never set myself up as a paragon of virtue. I do what I do and that's what I like to judged on, my work" before talking about doorstepping by a journalist which lasted for about a month. He also mentions how his daughter's great-grandmother was duped by a Daily Mirror journalist pretending to be a council worker, undertaking a survey.

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Robert Jay begins his questioning of Coogan with background on the actor. Coogan talks about his caeer history. Comedy and acting 'is what defines me', he says but adds that he doens't go on panel shows etc as himself, it is always as a character. Says he has never entered a 'faustian pact' with the media.

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Actor and comedian Steve Coogan has entered the witness box to give his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.

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Leveson concerned over Mail's reporting and the Inquiry moves on to Steve Coogan's evidence.

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Lord Leveson wants to resolve question of media reporitng witness statements. Lawyers haven't agreed a form of words so discussions begin again.

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The Inquiry breaks for lunch and will return at 2pm when Leveson hopes a resolution to the question of media reporting of witness evidence will have been found. Essentially, the lawyers have an hour to sort it out...

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Sherborne not happy with Jonathan Caplan's representation for Associated Newspapers, saying his clients (witnesses to Leveson) will have no confidence that their evidence won't be equally damned by the Mail et al. Leveson hopes further conversations will take place during the next hour (lunch break).

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Leveson agrees that newspapers should be able to respond to allegations made by witnesses but stresses the difference between articles being 'defensive' rather than 'offensive'.

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Sherborne reads out extracts from Amanda Platell article today that attacks Grant's evidence and his motives.

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David Sherborne QC raising concerns about Associated Newspapers reporting of Hugh Grant's evidence to Leveson yesterday, accusing the actor of 'mendacious smears'.

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Margaret and Jim Watson have finished giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.

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Margaret Watson concludes by saying she hopes that English politicians 'get some backbone' and look at defamation as well.

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Margaret Watson has been involved with a campaign to change laws on defamation, in particular on defaming the dead: "Just because a person's died, their reputation shouldn't die with them. "

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