Who's Behind the Campaign to Smear Wendi Deng Murdoch?

Sometimes the mere existence of a rumor is as interesting as the rumor itself, and the recent surge of people breathlessly telling us that Wendi Deng Murdoch is cuckolding News Corp. Rupert Murdoch certainly falls into that category. In the last couple weeks, three separate people have come forward to tell us Deng is having an affair with Chris DeWolfe, a MySpace founder who now works for Rupert after News Corp. purchased the social network three years ago for $580 million. It's pretty clear there is a campaign underway to get this story out. And whoever it is has finally found an outlet to bite. There's certainly no shortage of people who might have an ax to grind against Murdoch, Deng or even DeWolfe. If you have any idea who's behind it, please email me.

The rumor itself is actually at least 18 months old — we first heard it last year after a reporter at a major business magazine got the News Corp. nuclear treatment when he rang up the flacks to ask whether they had made out at a party — largely spurred by Deng being named the "chief of strategy" at MySpace China last summer, putting her in close (business) contact with DeWolfe. And then there were reports that DeWolfe was using his friendship with Deng in his negotiations for a new compensation package with News Corp.

The first time in the most recent spate of tips was in the form of an an email from someone using the Dark Knight pseudonym "Harvey Dent" and was pre-written in gossip-columnese ("What media mogul billionaire's wife has been guilty of so many sexual escapades that she is the talk of LA?"), but it also made some amateurish mistakes, such as referring to "Wendy Deng." The second tipster came from inside a media organization that's locked horns with News Corp. plenty of times in the past. The third was the most aggressive. Their first account was that they had heard that someone with a grudge against Murdoch had hired a private investigator who had discovered that Deng was involved with "Chris DeWitt." Asked why someone was digging dirt on Rupert, they said it was "more of a personal interest."

None of the new tipsters have offered any new evidence to made us think it's true. Like the Jossip item, all leaned heavily on the detail that they're hooking up at 141 Prince St. But that's hardly a secret address. since that's where the Murdochs live when they're in New York. And as someone familiar with the Murdochs points out, they sold that apartment in 2005 and now live on Fifth Ave. So color us skeptical. Though, of course, if you know more than our previous tipsters, we're interested in that, too.