William Rees-Mogg, a former editor of Britain's Times
newspaper who famously backed Mick Jagger when the Rolling
Stones singer was jailed for a drug offence, has died at the
age of 84.
On its website, the Times said Rees-Mogg, a former chairman
of the Arts Council and vice-chairman of the BBC, had been
suffering from oesophageal cancer.
Rees-Mogg became editor of the paper in 1967 and, despite
establishment credentials built up at independent school and
Balliol College, Oxford, soon showed a rebellious streak.
In July of that year, he published a celebrated leading
article criticising the jailing of Jagger for a minor drugs
offence, headlined: "Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?"
Later Rees-Mogg, in an article in the Times after he had
stepped down as editor, described John Major, Conservative
prime minister for most of the 1990s as "over-promoted, unfit
to govern and lacking self-confidence".
"His ideal level of political competence would be deputy
chief whip or something of that standing," he added, in a
contemptuous reference to Britain's behind-the-scenes
political party managers.
However, Rees-Mogg stubbornly defended former U.S. President
Richard Nixon against all the Watergate evidence filed by the
Times' Washington staff as the scandal that led to Nixon's
resignation in 1974 unfolded.
The Times was bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp in January
1981, at which point Rees-Mogg, who had backed the Murdoch
purchase, resigned to make way for one of Britain's most
celebrated editors, Harold Evans, who became Reuters
editor-at-large in 2011.
The paper's website carried a tribute from Murdoch on
"William Rees Mogg was a distinguished editor of the Times
for 14 years, during which time he modernised the paper,
reaching out to a younger readership with expanded coverage
of news, sport and features," Murdoch wrote.
"It is to his great credit that he retained the intellectual
integrity of the paper while attracting a broader based and
markedly more female readership for the paper.
"He gave me invaluable support when I acquired Times
Newspapers in 1981, and remained someone on whom I could
always count for impartial counsel."