21 Jul 2011

Murdoch denies responsibility for phone-hacking scandal

5:41 am on 21 July 2011

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has told a British parliamentary committee that he was not responsible for the scandal at the News of the World and was unaware of the extent of the phone hacking.

The chairman of media conglomerate News Corp; his son James, who heads the company's British arm News International; and former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks appeared before MPs in London on Tuesday.

Both Murdochs apologised unreservedly to the committee.

At one stage the hearing was suspended after a man rushed forward from the public gallery, pelting Rupert Murdoch with shaving cream and shouting "you are a greedy billionaire".

He was fought off by a group of people including Mr Murdoch's wife Wendi, who leapt up and hit the man.

The Murdochs and Ms Brooks had been called before the committee to answer questions about employees of the News of the World newspaper hacking into phone accounts of thousands of people, and accusations that the paper paid police officers for information.

James Murdoch told the MPs that the phone hacking episode had been one of great shame for the organisation.

"I would like to say just how sorry I am, and how sorry we are, to particularly the victims of illegal voicemail interceptions and to their families."

Rupert Murdoch told the hearing he cannot be held responsible for the scandal and was let down by people he trusted. "I think they behaved disgracefully - betrayed the company and me - and it's for them to pay." He said he had not considered resigning.

Shamed, says Murdoch

Mr Murdoch told MPs it was the most humble day of his life and later said he was shocked, appalled and ashamed when he read two weeks ago of the case of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, whose voicemail messages had been hacked into.

He said he and his executives decided to close the News of the World tabloid because the paper had lost the trust of its readers.

Conservative MP Paul Farrelly asked why News International continued pay the legal fees of private investigator Glen Mulcaire who is believed to have accessed and deleted messages on the mobile phone of Milly Dowler.

James Murdoch said he was "surprised and shocked" to learn that certain legal fees were paid by the company for Mr Mulcaire.

Company acted decisively - Rebekah Brooks

Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive, told the committee she knew nothing about the alleged hacking of Milly Dowler's phone until two weeks before the hearing.

Ms Brooks said News International acted "quickly and decisively" in dealing with "abhorrent" phone-hacking at the News of the World, which she formerly edited.

But she later appeared to contradict herself, saying the company had been too slow to respond.

She said she knew the paper used private investigators but that she had never met Mr Mulcaire, who was convicted of phone hacking in 2007.

Mrs Brooks was arrested last week.

Following the hearing, News Corp's share price closed 5.5% higher on Wall Street, with analysts saying the rally was due to relief that the hearing did not uncover anything too damaging.