Business, Economics and Jobs

A "humble" Rupert Murdoch accepts no blame in phone hacking


Journalists waiting outside Britain's Houses of Parliament on July 19, 2011, for the arrival of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, son James and former top aide Rebekah Brooks on Tuesday to answer questioning by the Home Affairs Select Committee on the phone hacking scandal.


Carl Court

Rupert Murdoch described an appearance before a British parliamentary inquiry Tuesday to answer questions over alleged phone hacking by News of the World as "the most humble day of my life."

News of the World reporters have been accused of illegally accessing thousands of cellphone voice mails of celebrities, politicians, rival journalists and even murder victims.

U.K. lawmakers are seeking to uncover the extent of criminality at Murdoch's News of the World tabloid. But Murdoch and his son, James, told the inquiry that they had not been aware of any wrongdoing at News International, which owned the recently shuttered News of the World.

James Murdoch told the panel that he and his father had “great regret” about the phone-hacking.

James Murdoch, 38, the heir apparent who has been chairman and CEO of News Corp.'s European and Asian operations since 2007, told British lawmakers that "these actions do not live up to the standards our company aspires to," the Globe and Mail reports

For his part, Rupert Murdoch — the 80-year-old chief executive officer of New York-based umbrella company News Corp., whose media empire spans Asia, Europe and the United States — when asked by lawmakers why he took no action, responded: "I didn't know of it," the AP reports.

And asked if he bore ultimate responsibility for the phone hacking scandal, Murdoch answered flatly "no." Rather, he said, responsibility laid with those he trusted to run the business and "the people they trusted," the SMH reports

The two men were being grilled before an appearance by their former U.K. newspaper chief, Rebekah Brooks.

Lawmakers were separately questioning London police officials Paul Stephenson, who quit Sunday as London police chief, and Assistant Commissioner John Yates who quit Monday, about their close connections with former editors and journalists at Murdoch's British operations, including News of the World.

Rupert Murdoch acknowledged "that he did not investigate after Brooks [then Chief Executive] said the News of the World had paid police officers for information."

Brooks, for her part, told the panel that she had never knowingly sanctioned a payoff to a police officer, the Globe and Mail reports.

Meanwhile, Murdoch told the panel that he had seen no evidence that News Corp. employees hacked or attempted to hack into the calls and phone records of Sept. 11 victims and their families.

“We have seen no evidence of that at all, and as far as we know, the FBI hasn’t either,” Murdoch told the panel, which is investigating the phone-hacking scandal. ” I cannot believe [the hacking] happened by anyone in America.”

Asked if he was mislead over the phone-hacking affair, Rupert Murdoch said, Reuters reports:


"This is not an excuse. Maybe it's an explanation of my laxity. The News of the World is less than 1 percent of our company. I employ 53,000 people around the world who are proud and great and ethical and distinguished people, professionals."

Murdoch read this prepared statement after answering the questions of lawmakers Tuesday.

James Murdoch, meantime, said the company acted as swiftly and transparently as possible when faced with accusations that its journalists hacked into the voice mail of celebrities, politicians, other journalists and even murder victims.

News of the World was shuttered after what Rupert Murdoch told lawmakers was a "discussion" between he and his son, senior executives, the News Corp. board and Brooks.

Asked by a lawmaker Tuesday whether there was a financial motive for closing the paper, Rupert Murdoch reportedly said: "Far from it."

Murdoch also gave up his bid for Britain's British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) last week amid criticism from lawmakers — including British prime minister David Cameron, over the alleged phone hacking.

Brooks, who resigned Friday as News International's chief executive, was arrested Sunday and released on bail 12 hours later. She is seen as having brought the British police investigations into phone hacking into the media baron's inner circle. 

The prime minister, meanwhile, cut short a trade trip to Africa to fly home.

Cameron and Brooks had been friends and neighbors, who were photographed going riding together and who socialized at Brooks’ Oxfordshire home over the Christmas period.

Cameron has also been criticized for his decision to employ News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, as his media chief until January, Bloomberg reports. Coulson was also arrested earlier this month over hacking.