UK

Rupert Murdoch And James Murdoch Appear Before Parliament To Take Questions On Phone Hacking

19/07/2011 14:53 BST | Updated 18/09/2011 10:12 BST

Rupert Murdoch and his son James have been quizzed by MPs at a hearing about the phone hacking crisis, in an appearance that the News Corporation chairman described as the "most humble day" of his life.

The dramatic session, where an intruder attempted to attack Murdoch with a plate of foam, began with an apology.

Taking questions about the News of the World phone hacking scandal, James Murdoch was accused by the chair of the culture media and sport select committee, John Whittingdale, of misleading parliament.

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“It’s a matter of great regret … these actions do not live up to the standards that our company aspires to around the round”, the deputy chief operating officer and chairman and chief executive of News Corp’s international operations told MPs.

The younger Murdoch said they'd relied on reports from the Press Complaints Commission, independent lawyers and others, saying when the scandal broke it was unclear how widespread phone hacking he was. He said it was a matter of “deep regret” that “the facts could not emerge".

“We have established a group in the company cooperating very closely with the police on their investigation”, James Murdoch said. He highlighted the fact that News International had provided new information to the police.

He defended Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton, saying there was no evidence that either had been aware of the practice.

"Nonetheless, those resignations have been accepted."

Rupert Murdoch added that both top executives had asked to resign. He said Brooks had "insisted" on going as was "at a point of extreme anguish", and said he did not initially accept her resignation because he trusted her.

The chairman said he was "clearly" misled about phone hacking but did not know by whom. Pressed on Brooks' previous admission that she had paid police officers, Murdoch said he had not investigated the claims.

In a dramatic admission, Rupert Murdoch said he may have "lost sight " of the News of the World. He said he would only speak to the News of the World editor once a month or so, but would speak to the Sunday Times editor every Saturday.

Tom Watson, the Labour MP who pursued claims about phone hacking at the paper, asked Rupert Murdoch a series of questions about events at the company.

The News Corp CEO replied that:

  • He was unaware of News of the World reporter Neville Thurlbeck being found guilty of blackmail.
  • He was shocked and appalled when he heard about the Milly Dowler case
  • He was unaware of payments made to Gordon Taylor for privacy claims

James Murdoch also defended the £700,000 payout to Taylor, who is chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association, saying there was no new information about how widespread phone hacking was when he signed off the payment.

"It was quite clear and quite likely that if litigated the company would lose that case."

He told MPs that if he had known then what he now knew he still would have made the payment, but would have contacted police and put a process in place for admitting liability and apologising to the victims for phone hacking which was "absolutely inexcusable".

"We would have taken more action around that and moved faster to get to the bottom of these allegations."

James Murdoch said he was "surprised" that News International had contributed to the legal fees of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, who were jailed in 2007 for tapping the phones of royals.

He said he was "as surpised as you are" that payments had been made to help Glenn Mulcaire's legal fees. He said he knew certain legal fees had been paid but did not know if they were ongoing, and had asked them to be ceased.

Rupert Murdoch said the payments "could have been" authorised by the then chief legal officer, Tom Crone, or Les Hinton.

He also replied to questions about the closure of News of the World. He said his company was making every effort to give jobs to former journalists at the paper who were not guilty of wrongdoing

He also said he felt "ashamed" of what had happened at the News of the World.

"We had broken our trust with our readers," he told the committee.

Murdoch senior also told the ministers that he had no recollection of meeting former News of the World executive Alex Marunchak, who worked for the Metropolitan Police for 20 years as a translator.

Questioned over his relationship with Prime Minister David Cameron, Rupert Murdoch said he was "told" to enter Number 10 from the back door after the 2010 election.

"I was asked, would I please come in through the back door".

He added that he would "absolutely" co-operate with further investigations, including any examining claims that the paper attempted to hack the phones of 9/11 victims.

Murdoch said he was not ultimately responsible for the scandal and blamed it on the people he "trusted", and the people they in turn trusted. But he stood by Les Hinton, the recently resigned Dow Jones chief and former News International chief executive, saying that he would trust him with his life.