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.
“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.
19/07/2011 21:40 BST
The Culture Select Committee's Louise Mensch Twwets:
|@ LouiseMensch : I can say that very many people wanted to end the session right there, and Mr. Murdoch personally insisted on answering my questions.|
19/07/2011 21:18 BST
John Whittingdale Is Still 'Very Angry', And Discussing That Anger
Check out our bloggers' reactions to the hearings.
19/07/2011 20:52 BST
More On Piegate
|@ SkyNewsBreak : Protester has been suspended from the Labour Party following attack on Rupert Murdoch|
19/07/2011 20:41 BST
Paul Farrelly, The Committee Member Who Got The Murdoch To Admit To Paying Legal Fees For Mulcaire And Goodman Says He Doesn't Believe Brooks
"For those people who watched the broadcast they would have seen me ask about the culture in the newsroom with some incredulity that it was all the news desk apparently, it was boys behaving badly without editors knowing because I know that on difficult stories, editors always ask you where did the story come from? They might not ask you the source but they always ask you to stand it up, particularly if it’s got legal ramifications and the news desk is part and parcel of the operations, the heartbeat of a newspaper and for an editor simply not to know what was going on I still find very difficult to believe."
19/07/2011 20:19 BST
Therese Coffey, Culture Committee MP Says She Is Relieved Murdoch's Attack Was Not Worse
She says she believes the committee covered a lot of group. "It was a good day for parliament."
19/07/2011 20:13 BST
Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes: Let's Clean Out The Old Stable
He says: "We don't want a press where dubious and illegal things go on with the complicity of the police."
19/07/2011 19:58 BST
More From Whittingdale
"The thing which immediately was clear was that predictions in both the cases of Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks that somehow they would be restrained from answering and might sort of try and plead the fifth that did not take place. Obviously there are ongoing police investigations and potential criminal proceedings but none the less they did appear to want to try to be as helpful as they could...
"I mean Rupert Murdoch perhaps understandably said the News of the World was only a very small part of the global enterprise he runs, but none the less I think some members found it very difficult to believe that he was completely unaware of some of the activities which were being exposed and indeed the illegal activities and subsequent convictions."
19/07/2011 19:35 BST
James Forsyth Says The Crisis Has Gotten Closer To The Tories
The news that Neil Wallis was informally advising Andy Coulson without the knowledge of any of the other senior figures in the Tory party is a reminder of just how dysfunctional the Tory party machine was pre-election. It is also an indication of the license that Coulson was afforded. The Tories cannot say if anyone else offered Coulson this kind of ‘informal advice’.
19/07/2011 19:33 BST
John Whittingdale Was 'Very Angry' About The Murdoch Attack And Wants An Inquiry
The culture committee chair tells the BBC: "I think there will need to be a full investigation as to how this happened."
19/07/2011 19:20 BST
Brooks finishes her evidence session, asks to come back when she is free from "legal constraints".