The anonymous News Limited spokesman quoted by the ABC as refuting allegations by Ita Buttrose that Rupert Murdoch wanted her to have a person followed as part of an investigation for a story he wanted run in the Sydney Tele is a cagey fellow. While the words in the denial give the impression that Ms Buttrose was telling fibs about his boss they really don’t do so at all.

In Monday night’s Australian Story, Ms Buttrose said the media mogul asked her to “go beyond what I thought I should do” when he asked for someone to be  followed while chasing a story in her time as editor-in-chief of the Sunday Telegraph and Daily Telegraph. Ms Buttrose said the request came while working on a story at Mr Murdoch’s request.

“I assigned a reporter to do it but [Mr Murdoch] wasn’t happy with the result and said, ‘No, that wasn’t good enough. Have you followed this person?’.” Approaching then News Limited chief executive Ken Cowley, Ms Buttrose claims she said: “I can’t give this instruction. I’m not having anybody that works for me, for whom I’m responsible, follow anybody. I don’t want to be a part of it.”

So to the denial.

“Mr Murdoch has never asked any journalist to do anything improper,” the spokesman said.

Well I supposed you can argue that there is nothing improper about having someone followed.

Then: “Mr Cowley has never been asked by Mr Murdoch to have a reporter conduct surveillance of any kind on any individual and nor would he have agreed to it had he been asked by Mr Murdoch or anyone else.”

Ms Buttrose did not say that Mr Cowley was asked by Mr Murdoch to conduct surveillance. That denial is of something not alleged.