Rupert Murdoch is an "impressive" man whose critics are merely jealous of his success, Michael Gove has told the Leveson inquiry.
Giving evidence to the inquiry on Tuesday, the education secretary who was a journalist for the News International owned Times newspaper prior to entering parliament, said the media mogul had helped create jobs in the UK.
Gove said Murdoch was "one of the most impressive and significant figures of the last 50 years" and noted that "few entrepreneurs have taken risks in the way that he has."
"It is often the case that successful people invite criticism," Gove added. "There are other who are only too happy to criticise."
"I enjoyed meeting him when I was a journalist, I subsequently enjoyed meeting him when I was a politician."
And his praise was not restricted to his old boss at News International. Asked for his opinion of the Daily Mail's Paul Dacre he replied: "I respect him as one of the most impressive editors of our age".
The education secretary, who peppered his testimony with characteristically loquacious language and the occasional Latin, told the inquiry that he made no intervention within government over News Corporation's bid to take control of BSkyB.
Asked if he expressed an opinion he said: "Never to any of my political colleagues, no."
However he acknowledged that, given his past praise for Murdoch, "I think they could legitimately infer what my view would be."
He added that he had "absolutely no recollection" of being informed about News Corp intent to take control of BSkyB before reading about it in the papers at the same time as everyone else.
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is under pressure to quit amid suggestions his office gave News Corp inappropriate access to the government's thinking on its bid when he was supposed to be an impartial adjudicator.
In February Gove hit out at the Leveson inquiry, warning that it was having a "chilling effect" on the freedom of the press.
“The big picture is that there is a chilling atmosphere towards freedom of expression which emanates from the debate around Leveson," he said.
"I think that there are laws already in place that we should respect and principles already in place that we should uphold that are central to ensuring that this country remains free."
Asked about the comments, Gove said he had been seeking to ask whether any "cure" proposed by the inquiry "might in certain circumstances, be worse than the disease".
"I have a prior belief we should use existing laws of the land," he said. "The case for regulation needs to be made very strongly before we curtail liberty."
"Free speech doesn't mean anything unless some people are going to be offended some of the time."
Ased by Leveson about the public's low opinion of journalists and politicians he replied: "T'was ever thus".
Tim Shipman (Mail)