Is Rupert Murdoch Playing Defense Against the Eliot Spitzer Comeback Team?


Saturday at the Tribeca Film Festival, one of the event’s most buzzed-about features made its debut. After all, there’s nothing New Yorkers love more than art about other New Yorkers. And sex. Plus, Rupert Murdoch — but not together. The as-of-yet untitled and unfinished Eliot Spitzer documentary project, with Academy Award winner Alex Gibney at the helm, has all that and more, at least according to the first wave of reactions. What it doesn’t have is breasts, as far as we can tell, or any Ashley Dupre at all. But maybe it’s watchable, even titillating, without them.

What say you, lucky premiere audience?

New York magazine’s first take, by Logan Hill, calls the picture a “ricocheting, lowbrow-to-highbrow recap, veering from tabloid headlines and prostitute interviews to lofty campaign ads and reflections on the economic crisis.” In other words, awesome and made for 3-D.

Hill also highlights one of the film’s most consequential observations, noting Dupre’s absence in the name of “moving on,” while questioning her television appearances, NY Post column and of course, Playboy shoot. But it might be even more sinister than trying to get a buck: “Gibney suggests that Murdoch and News Corp. have been counterprogramming Spitzer’s comeback with Dupre’s media appearances,” Hill writes. But more on that in a second.

This is an important side note:

Still, it wasn’t all bad news for Dupre: Fellow escort Ashley Youmans praised Dupre’s “perfect coochie.”

Interestingly, the film also features something like a dramatization, but without the sex acts. Instead, “an attractive actress” reads the testimony of “Spitzer’s real main squeeze,” a girl by the “name” of “Angelina,” working through descriptions of “liaisons with the former governor (‘no black socks’) and accounts of her sketchy FBI interviews.”

Spitzer himself did not attend — but Republican operative Roger Stone did, telling the NY Post afterwards that the film was “completely biased” — no surprise since Gibney hints heavily at a conservative conspiracy. (Also in attendance: Darren Dopp, the Emperors Club’s Cecil Suwal, Peter Elkind, Mort Zuckerman, Nora Ephron, Nick Pileggi, and police commissioner Ray Kelly.)

A much drier AP review notes, “The film also raises questions about the investigation into the Emperor’s Club, suggesting that political motives may have been behind the investigation.” The Daily News, meanwhile, calls the film “sharp” and highlights Spitzer’s claim that his fun “never interfered with governance.”

Murdoch’s New York Post, though, takes the most critical view of the premiere, claiming Spitzer “gets off lightly,” and giving the closing quote to GOP operative Roger Stone, who “slammed the movie for bending the truth.”

“It’s completely biased,” Stone said. “The filmmaker has a number of key facts wrong.”

When it comes to Spitzer, the Post has generally seemed more concerned with a good narrative than the man’s politics, but with public opinion of Spitzer steadily rising in barely more than a year since his disgrace and resignation, maybe the ex-gov’s ascent is starting to scare ol’ Rupe and his thugs on the right. But with this sort of media momentum building, can even Murdoch, with all of his millions, get in the way of Spitzer Redemption Train? There’s at least one guaranteed winner in the entire battle, though, and that’s tabloid headlines. Praise be to New York City newspapers.

Here’s an early clip of the film: