FIA president Max Mosley, under intense pressure following a tabloid newspaper sting, has issued a defiant statement attacking his critics and refusing to resign.
He called the News of the World story a “deliberate and calculated personal attack” and a “wholly unwarranted invasion of my privacy”.
The newspaper had published photos and a video that it said showed Mosley, the 67-year-old son of former British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley, participating with prostitutes in a “Nazi-style orgy in a torture dungeon”.
Despite the ferocity of his counter-attack, which included a promise of legal action, the only aspect of the story that Mosley criticised on the grounds of factual accuracy was “the claim that there was some sort of Nazi connotation to the matter”. This, he said, was “entirely false”.
The statement came in the form of a letter to the various presidents of the national FIA clubs, all members of the FIA senate, the World Motor Sport Council and the World Council for Mobility and the Automobile.
In it, he stressed the support he had been offered from across the motorsport and motoring worlds.
He wrote: “I have received a very large number of messages of sympathy and support from those within the FIA and the motorsport and motoring communities generally, suggesting that my private life is not relevant to my work and that I should continue in my role. I am grateful and, with your support, intend to follow this advice.”
The statement also harshly criticises the methods by which the story had been obtained and the fact that it had been published at all.
It says: “From information provided to me by an impeccable high-level source close to the UK police and security services, I understand that over the last two weeks or so, 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. I have had similar but less well-sourced information from France.”
Mosley had planned to attend this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix but is now likely to to stay away and spend the time consulting with his lawyers. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, while far from condemnatory of his friend, had indicated his presence at the race and its associated social and promotional events would overshadow the action on the track and be likely to displease the Bahraini royal family.
Today’s Times is claiming some inside knowledge of Mosley’s possible next steps and suggests his legal case is likely to have two lines of attack.
It reports: “Since the story broke on Sunday, he has spent many hours speaking to lawyers, assembling a case against the paper that will centre on invasion of privacy and his belief that he was the victim of a set-up. It appears that Mosley will not deny that he took part in the orgy but will dispute the context in which it occurred.”
In particular, the paper says he will claim the reason he spoke in German during some of the orgy was not as part of a Nazi-style fantasy but simply because some of the prostitutes involved were German speakers.
More worryingly for Mosely, it suggests his support in the motorsport world is not as total as he claims – the paper says many industry figures are too scared to speak out in case he remains in power, but share a “widespread revulsion at his behaviour, whether there was a Nazi connotation to it or not”.