Rupert Murdoch was “extremely impressed” by David Cameron the first time he met him, he said today, especially the way he treated his children.
But the media mogul risked criticism by referring to the Prime Minister’s late son Ivan, who suffered from severe epilepsy and cerebral palsy and died in 2009, as “retarded”.
Mr Murdoch, 81, said he first met then-opposition leader Mr Cameron at a family picnic at his daughter’s country home.
“I first met him once or even twice at family picnics, at weekends at my daughter’s house in the grounds of Blenheim Castle, where he came with my family.
“We were over-run by children, there were no politics, but I was extremely impressed at the kindness and feeling he showed to his children and particularly to his retarded son.”
He said he came away seeing Mr Cameron as a “good family man”.
Some time after the picnic, Mr Cameron visited Mr Murdoch at his offices in Wapping, east London, at the Tory leader’s request.
In a written statement, the tycoon said: “Mr Cameron, since his election as Prime Minister, I have met principally in social settings, where little of substance was discussed.
“I do recall that, shortly after his election, Mr Cameron invited me in for tea at No 10 Downing Street. He thanked me for the support of our papers.
“I congratulated him and told him that I was sure our titles would watch carefully and report whether he kept all of his campaign promises. The meeting lasted at most 20 minutes.”
But the tycoon denied any involvement in the appointment of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as Mr Cameron’s communications chief in May 2007.
“I was just as surprised as anyone else,” he told the hearing.
He said he had never discussed BBC licence fees with Mr Cameron, adding: “I had been through that with previous prime ministers and it didn’t matter what they said, they all hated the BBC and they gave it whatever they wanted.”
He also said he never spoke to Mr Cameron about Ofcom.
He told counsel for the inquiry Robert Jay QC: “You keep inferring that endorsements were motivated by business matters and if that had been the case, we would have endorsed the Tory party in every election. It was always more pro-business.”
He told the inquiry he could not really remember meeting Mr Cameron on a yacht near the Greek island of Santorini in August 2008.
“Politicians go out of their way to impress people in the press and I don’t remember discussing any heavy political things with him at all,” he said.
“There may have been some issues discussed possibly. It wasn’t a long meeting.
“As I say, I don’t really remember the meeting.
“I think that’s part of the democratic process. All politicians ... like to have their views known by the editors of newspapers or publishers, hoping that they will be put across, hoping that they will succeed in impressing people. That’s the game.
“Mr Cameron might of course think stopping in Santorini would impress me. I don’t know.”