Were it not for his family history, the British media might eventually have dismissed the Nazi-themed sex romp of international motor-racing chief Max Mosley as just another instance of British upper-class bad taste. (Even Prince Harry, remember, showed up at a costume party three years ago in a military uniform with a swastika armband.) But Mosley, the urbane president of the body that governs Formula One racing, is under increasing pressure to resign following revelations of a sex scandal involving prostitutes, sadomasochism and alleged Nazi-style role-play. That pressure may reflect the brand concerns of mass-market automakers involved in Grand Prix racing, but the fact that Mosley's parents were high-profile Hitler fans may have intensified the media clamor.
Last Sunday the British tabloid News of the World posted video footage on its website of Mosley and five prostitutes in what it frothily described as "a depraved Nazi-style orgy in a torture dungeon." In the secretly filmed video, the paper reports, Mosley "barks orders in German as he whips two hookers dressed in striped uniforms reminiscent of Auschwitz garb while girls in Nazi uniforms look on."
The video, which has been removed from the newspaper's web site, also captures a prostitute commanding Mosley to strip before she inspects his head and genitals for lice, which the paper suggest was "mocking the humiliating ways Jews were treated by SS death camp guards in World War II." Placed in chains, Mosley leans over a torture bench and whimpers as a dominatrix strikes him with a rod, saying "You're going to be shown how we treat prisoners in our facility." Later, when Mosley takes hold of a whip, he states that a blonde inmate "needs more of ze punishment."
Mosley, one of the most powerful men in the multibillion-dollar sport of Grand Prix racing, admits to participating in the orgy, but denies that his fantasy had any Nazi or concentration-camp connotation. He spoke German, he said, simply because it was the native language of the women involved in the erotic rendezvous.
Mosley's background ensures that he won't get off that easily. His mother, Diana Mitford, was a celebrity British Nazi sympathizer in the prewar years, while his father, Sir Oswald Mosley, founded and led the British Union of Fascists a guest of honor at their wedding in 1936, at the Berlin home of Joseph Goebbels, was none other than Adolf Hitler.
The 67-year-old millionaire has initiated a lawsuit against the newspaper and has described the very public revelation of his sexual predilections as "a deliberate and calculated personal attack." Mosley lives with his wife of 48 years in London's fashionable neighborhood of Chelsea.
On Thursday, automakers with brand interests in Formula One racing questioned Mosely's leadership ability and made efforts to distance themselves from him. In a joint statement, BMW and Mercedes described the contents of the video as "disgraceful." Toyota came down even more harshly. "Toyota Motorsport does not approve of any behavior which could be seen to damage Formula One's image, in particular any behavior which could be understood to be racist or anti-Semitic."
Mosley responded: "Given the history of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, particularly before and during the Second World War, I fully understand why they would wish to strongly distance themselves from what they rightly describe as the disgraceful content of these publications." The backhanded comment refers to the well-publicized fact that the Nazi regime had supplied the automakers with slave labor.
Mosley's current term as FIA president ends in October 2009, but a growing number of F1 drivers, including former champions Jackie Stewart and Jody Scheckter, have already called for him to step down. Whether he does will likely have little to do with financial considerations, as the position is unpaid. Besides, as Mosley once said, "Money doesn't turn me on." Unfortunately for him, the world now knows what does.