Why Max Mosley should resign

Max Mosley, Monaco, 2007, 470150

Having read Max Mosley’s statement about the News of the World allegations my opinion has not changed very much from what I first wrote about the scandal on Sunday:

The News of the World?s story makes a lot of references to ??Nazi-style? behaviour, but it?s not clear from the evidence whether that?s actually an accurate description. British tabloids do like to link anything even remotely unseemly with Nazism, as the Daily Star did with the Lewis Hamilton racism story. Given the fascist past of Mosley?s family, it?s an obvious connection to make.

But even the the ??Nazi? angle is fantasy, the other details (assuming they are true) will be considered by many to be sufficiently unpleasant to make Mosley?s position untenable.

Mosley has said he will not step down. Is this the right course of action for him – and for Formula 1?

Reading Mosley’s statement I am reminded of Eliot Spitzer’s words on March 13th. Spitzer, then the Governor of New York, had been connected to a prostitution ring:

I have acted in a way that violates my obligation to my family and violates my, or any sense, of right or wrong. I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.

Four days later, Spitzer resigned. What will happen to Mosley?

Character assassination

In his statement Mosley suggests he’s been been the victim of character assassination: “a covert investigation of my private life and background has been undertaken by a group specialising in such things, for reasons and clients as yet unknown.”

There will inevitably be speculation about who is responsible. The FIA had brought a legal action against the Sunday Times, sister newspaper to the News of the World. Today another of its sister newspapers, The Times, printed a leader demanding Mosley’s resignation. Other major British newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph have given little coverage to the story with the Telegraph’s F1 correspondent Kevin Garside voicing support of Mosley.

However a controversial figure such as Mosley is never short of critics and enemies, and only last year clashed publicly with McLaren in the ‘spygate’ scandal. Any number of people might bear a grudge against him.

Throwing mud

Whoever is going after Mosley knows this adage well: “If you throw enough mud, some of it will stick.”

Mosley strongly denied the ‘Nazi’ connotations in the News of the World’s reportage. But even ignoring this other highly visible figures have lost their jobs over less serious matters than what Mosley is accused of.

The News of the World is a nasty, grubby newspaper that often makes sensational allegations like this against people in the public eye. Many will ask what relevance its revelations of Max Mosley’s personal life has to his ability to do his job?

Possibly none at all. But that is not the point. Mosley is one of the most high profile representatives of international motor racing and he has brought the sport into disrepute.

Just the beginning?

If someone is working a plan to destroy Mosley, there will likely be more to come. To discredit someone in an era of 24-hour rolling news on television and online, you don’t play all your cards at once. There will be “shocking new pictures” and “tell-all stories” and who knows what else still to come.

Mosley is credited with a terrific legal brain – but the News Corporation lawyers will have trodden this path a few times before. Whatever the outcome, I doubt it will be a quick win, and in the meantime the story will drag on and on. As Bernie Ecclestone said today:

If he starts to sue, from what I understand, the chances of him winning would be slim and, the trouble is, it?s just a lot more ink for the press.

Ecclestone has already said Mosley should not visit Bahrain for this weekend’s Grand Prix.

Should Mosley resign?

At the very least, I think he needs to take temporary leave from his position while he takes care of the matter.

He has said in his statement that he intends to take legal action against the News of the World. He added:

You can, however be certain that I will not allow any of this to impede my commitment to the work of the FIA.

But I think he should devote his time fully to pursuing his course of action against the newspaper. Mosley should stand down, at least temporarily, and allow someone else to devote their entire time to the professional duties of the role of FIA president.

Mosley has said he has, “received a very large number of messages of sympathy and support from those within the FIA and the motor sport and motoring communities generally, suggesting that my private life is not relevant to my work and that I should continue in my role.”

Over the days to come we shall see if that support is strong enough for him to cling to power despite the storm of criticism his decision is likely to bring. But as Kevin Eason pointed out today, the team bosses could not kick him out of the sport even if they wanted to.

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45 comments on Why Max Mosley should resign

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  1. Rohan said on 1st April 2008, 21:13

    As much as I dislike Max (the only thing he’s done recently that I agree with is to try to get McLaren thrown out of the sport), I fully support him in his legal action. I truly hope that he manages to get the vile, putrid publication that is The News of the World shut down for good.

  2. richdaddyracing said on 1st April 2008, 21:52

    So he did do it! Fantastic! Isn’t life great when even the richest, most privileged, pompous and self-important big shot is revealed to be just another dirty old man? Now we can all laugh the next time he puts on that horrible smirk and expounds some plausible sounding but deeply flawed bit of logic about why someone is lucky they didn’t get a more severe punishment. And he’s still at it! Classic Max to say his wife and kids have been the victim of this terrible attack on his private life, neatly ignoring his own role in their pain. Dear Max, I hope you stay, I really do. Will make F1 so much more fun. Can’t wait till Brundle slips in the odd covert comment on race day. And that’s another thing – is it me or has no-one noticed that ITV lost their coverage right in the middle of this? So here’s the conspiracy theory (all my own work); Like most of us, Brundle is amazed at the Ferrari Internal Affairs stitch up over stepneygate and the subsequent double standards over the Renault affair. Not knowing when to shut up (people from Norfolk never do know when to shut up – I know – i married one) Brundle publishes in Murdoch’s Times. The FIA (ie Max) gets pissed off, thinking that even though the public love him, it’s time Brundle came down a notch or two, so they decide to sue the Times. For good measure, being the arrogant bully he is, Max gets Bernie to accept the following; ITV is going down hill. Ryder is just a renta-gob, everyone knows James Allen is rubbish, and Louise isn’t getting any younger is she? Plus they totally screwed up darling Tamara’s all important media debut, making it look as if she had no talent and was just there ‘cos of the fact that daddy owns the whole shebang. So let’s give it to the BBC then eh? That should shut that mouthy little ex-driver up! This is a step too far, not for Brundle, who is just a fan with a conscience, no, this is where the big guns step in, for who owns a big chunk of ITV? Why that’ll be one Mr Murdock, owner of the Times (and the News of the Screws, as everyone used to call it). Now, Bernie and Max may be rich aggressive overachievers with more money than anyone really needs, but compared to Mr M, they are mere minnows, especially Max. So Mr M gets one of his NOTW henchmen to, shall we say, film one of Max’s pit stops. That would be a fitting way to shut the b***er up. I wonder what they have on Bernie? Would love to know….

  3. Oddball said on 1st April 2008, 21:55

    I must admit I struggle to find even a minimum of sympathy for Mr. Mosley; given his history of dictatorial behaviour (e.g. pushing through edicts and rule changes at his own pleasure totally in the face of just about all other parties with interests in the sport) combined with (at least in my opinion) an obnoxious habit of claiming the "high" moral ground (Stepney-gate and Barcelona "racism" being a couple of recent examples) he has himself stuck his neck out a touch too far just to prove his points. Combined with the vengeance he himself pursues anybody who dares to challenge his views (e.g. McLaren, Brundle) there are more than enough people and organisations out there "with an axe to grind" to make me surprised he didn’t see this coming.

    It can all sort of be described by one term: karma!

  4. Manatcna said on 1st April 2008, 22:30

    It’s a no brainer. He must step down. Now.

  5. Pink Peril said on 1st April 2008, 23:46

    Hoist on his own petard, is the phrase I beleive we are looking for here.

  6. Phil said on 1st April 2008, 23:55

    Max, you’ve not been ‘set up’. No one forced you to go and spank those prostitutes, did they? However, anyone want to bet on how long it will be until he blames McLaren and Ron Dennis for the whole thing? On the positive side, the sooner this Ferrari lickspittle goes the better and if we could only catch Bernie at it as well… Sorry, forgot he’s only interested in money.

  7. Brendan said on 2nd April 2008, 0:02

    Although Spitzer’s comments are interesting in relation to Max, the two really can’t be compared. Here in America, prostitution is only legal in the state of Nevada, and even then, not in the whole state (not in Las Vegas, for example). In other words, Spitzer committed crimes–felonies actually, because prostitutes had been sent over state lines. New York has a law that the governor gets kicked out after being convicted of a felony. So, he had no chance of keeping his office.

    Although Max’s situation is more embarrassing, it is less serious. I guess he didn’t commit a crime (hookers are legal in the UK?), and he’s not elected by the public. Really, his problem is that he is tarnishing the global image of his organization. Others criticized the Times article, but it makes a good point–morally conservative countries (like Japan, Germany if you believe the Nazi part, Arab countries) can’t help but look at the FIA and Max in a different light.

  8. ben j said on 2nd April 2008, 1:28

    Momentum is probably building. The story was being discussed on Pardon the Interruption in the US (sports talk show on ESPN for those who don’t know). It’s the first I would have heard about it if I didn’t read this blog.

  9. Bbbut said on 2nd April 2008, 2:13

    @Brendan: "Others criticized the Times article, but it makes a good point–morally conservative countries (like Japan, Germany if you believe the Nazi part…"

    Being a German, I think you have a wrong image of the German general public tolerance and sensitivity regarding so called sex scandals.
    Germans differentiate between private and work life almost as a matter of principle.
    People in the highest positions have to be good at their job only, there are no "higher standards" for them in their spare time.
    Just some examples: Schröder, out last chancellor, was married 4 times, the mayor of Berlin is openly gay and one of the top guys in the conservative party cheated on his wife and even got a baby with the other woman, he is still a minister in today’s German government.

    Now if there will be more evidences about the Nazi aspect of this story, it might raise some eyebrows, but not enough for most people to demand Mosley to resign.

  10. It’s not a legal issue it’s a moral issue. And more importantly a judgment question, as in he’s lost all of his.

    richdaddyracing’s summary of who and why is a brilliant summary of how he wound up on the wrong end of the camera. He finally messed with the wrong guy and company and all his misdirection shouldn’t save him.

    Keith’s point about this being the tip of the iceberg is my fondest hope. If Max elects to fight this I hope more incidents come to light, he gets what he’s been giving the sport all these years: A royal shafting.

  11. William Wilgus said on 2nd April 2008, 5:14

    " . . . he has brought the sport into disrepute."  Sorry, but I can’t agree with that:  F-1 is unchanged by what he’s been caught doing.  The real issue is that  now `the Emperor  has no clothes’.  Who wants to follow a person who has so ignobly been dis-robed? Not many.

  12. Papers like the NOTW play a very valuable role in a free democracy. Whether or not you like their style of journalism is another factor.

    UK journalism continues to be among some of the finest in the world and that is somthing, as a country, we should be proud off.

    I don’t imagine this is the first time Max has transgressed. Look out for many more stories … could be fun!

  13. I’m sure sometime not too far in the future Max will hear:

    "Max, it’s not what you’ve done of course. It’s the appearance of what you’ve done. It seems so unjust, but for the good of the party. You understand…"

  14. Paul said on 2nd April 2008, 7:32

    If Max was your boss what would you think and want him to do?
    If he was your dinner guest where would you seat him?
    If he was your daughter’s friend’s father would you want him to be anywhere near your children?

    This is a case of individual morals.
    There is only one decent thing to do but i guess Max is not decent. 

  15. NDINYO said on 2nd April 2008, 8:56

    What really surprises me is that there people out there who support MM on this.  It leaves me wondering – do they do the same and therefore are only empathizing with MM? Nonetheless no one would have expected MM to resign on his first comment on the subject. It is interesting to note that he has basically admitted to the act – as to whether is was Nazist or not, that will be left to the interpretation of the court, an intuition that MM has been fond of imitating even if in the worst possible ways.

    As mentioned earlier, MM has good lawyers but so does NOTW – and most likely NOTW lawyers are better at this sort of thing than his version – which gives credence to Bernie’s advice to his friend to forget the litigation option – one wonders why MM is ready to risk so much battling it out in the courts for a figure head position that pays him nothing.

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