Bell Pottinger's senior executives described how they prepared the former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks for her evidence to Parliament and also helped her to choose which police station she would like to be arrested at and questioned.
David Wilson, chairman of Bell Pottinger Public Relations, and Tim Collins, managing director of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, also talked in less-than-complimentary terms about News International's public relations strategy after the hacking scandal broke. Ms Brooks – who retained Bell Pottinger after her resignation this July, and who has denied any knowledge of hacking – is unlikely to be impressed by the firm's apparent readiness to mention its role in her PR strategy whilst pitching to possible clients.
Mr Collins told undercover reporters posing as possible clients that Bell Pottinger helped prepare Ms Brooks for giving evidence to MPs on the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee shortly after her arrest on suspicion of making corrupt payments to police and conspiring to intercept voicemails. "She spent all yesterday morning in the room opposite this corridor while we were very rude to her to prepare her for the select committee," said Mr Collins.
"We were four hours in a waiting room adjacent to the committee room waiting to go in. She was really upset actually, in tears when Rupert got attacked because he is her mentor.
"He's almost like a father figure to her. I know there are stories about her in the past, I didn't know her too well in the past, so I won't comment on whether she was ruthless or whatever, I must say I see a very honorable, honest woman who's trying to fight to clear her name at the moment."
Mr Collins said Bell Pottinger's advice had stretched to helping choose which police station she should be questioned at. "Dave was on the phone... 'No, that nick's not quite right, no no, that one's got a car park, no that one's down a tunnel', and I thought he was on to some very dodgy part of the criminal underworld but in fact it was his brother-in-law who's a police officer."
Mr Wilson said he had waited outside for her while she was questioned. "She's been very open and honest and said, 'I didn't know a thing, didn't know any of it'. She said that yesterday and to be honest I believe her. "
Mr Collins bemoaned News International's initial handling of the phone-hacking crisis from a PR perspective.
"Dave's the PR expert but the problem from our perspective is News International were making a lot of mistakes in the two weeks or so prior to [her resignation] and they've just started making fewer."
Ms Brooks could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism