BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Clifford hits back at critics who doubt his role

PR consultant Max Clifford this week issued a robust defence of his

actions in the face of claims by some PR practitioners that his latest

escapades placed him outside mainstream PR.



Clifford said complaints about his activities were born of professional

jealousy at both his commercial success - his agency is reported to make

£1m profit on turnover of £1.5m - and at his success on

behalf of clients.



Faced with suggestions that his work - including regularly selling

stories to the tabloids and taking a cut of the payment - was the work

of a publicist rather than a PRO, Clifford said: 'People who say PR is

not about breaking stories don't understand anything.'



One PR professional praised Clifford's ability to drum up publicity but

questioned whether it is right for him to be the industry's main

spokesman in the public arena: 'I don't think he's done anything wrong

but his actions are not within the context of managing reputations or

communicating positive messages.'



The controversial Clifford hit the headlines this week when he was seen

to have played a role in the latest twist to the Neil and Christine

Hamilton saga. The couple were arrested last Friday in an Essex police

station on suspicion of sexual assault against an unnamed woman - and a

Clifford client - in May.



She went to Clifford with her allegations of rape against another man,

Barry Lehaney - who denies the allegations - and the claims of assault

against the Hamiltons. He told her to approach the police, which she

said she had already done.



Facing down his critics, Clifford said: 'I haven't negotiated any deal

here. My PR expertise is in speaking to the right journalist, someone

who you trust. It takes certain skills to defend a client under attack

and get her point of view across. And it takes expertise and

understanding to go on TV to defend a client without jeopardising the

police investigation.'



Clifford denied the publicity surrounding the case was a device to

further damage the disgraced former Tory MP Hamilton, the loser in a

failed libel action after being accused of taking cash from Harrods

owner Mohammed Al Fayed in exchange for asking questions in parliament.

Al Fayed is a famous Clifford client.



'The first Mohammed knew was when he called on Friday to discuss Fulham

(football club, another Clifford client and owned by Fayed). I told him

the Hamiltons had been arrested. He knew nothing before that,' Clifford

insisted.



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