Tuesday 19 July 2011

Don't blame me - I only own the firm

Disgraced media mogul Rupert Murdoch denied today that he was responsible for phone hacking and the bribery of police officers by News International staff.

A shambling Mr Murdoch told a committee of MPs he was not aware that former News of the World Editor Rebekah Brooks had admitted in 2003 that the paper paid police officers.

During forensic questioning from Labour MP Tom Watson in the culture, media and sport select committee Mr Murdoch was asked whether he had been "misled" by senior employees.

"Clearly," he replied.

Mr Watson pointed out that former News International chief executive Ms Brooks admitted in 2003 that police had been paid for information.

Mr Murdoch said: "I am now aware of that. I was not aware at the time.

"I'm also aware that she amended that very quickly afterwards."

Mr Watson said: "I think she amended it seven or eight years afterwards but did you or anyone else in your organisation investigate it at the time?"

Mr Murdoch replied: "No. I didn't know of it."

Asked why he had not sacked News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck after the Max Mosley civil case, when the judge found he had blackmailed two prostitutes involved, Rupert Murdoch replied: "I have never heard of him."

Mr Watson asked him why he thought he had not been informed of such a serious case by News International executives.

"Do you think this was because they thought you would think nothing of it?" he asked.

Quizzed by Jim Sheridan MP, Mr Murdoch denied that he was ultimately responsible for the "fiasco."

Asked who was, he replied: "The people that I trusted and then, maybe, the people they trusted."

Mr Murdoch also revealed he had been invited to have a cup of tea as a thank you by the Prime Minister within days of the general election last year.

He denied imposing any "preconditions" on party leaders before giving them support.

He also denied exerting influence over his editors.

In a brief opening statement Mr Murdoch had claimed: "This is the most humble day of my life."

Sitting alongside his son James he said he was "more than prepared" to answer the committee's questions on the phone hacking scandal.

James Murdoch, News Corp's deputy chief operating officer, began by saying how sorry he and his father were to the victims in the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

"It is a matter of great regret of mine, my father's and everyone at News Corporation.

"These actions do not live up to the standards our company aspires to everywhere around the world," he said.

He said the company had acted "as swiftly and transparently as possible" as soon as it became aware of fresh evidence over phone hacking after a series of civil actions in 2010, particularly the case involving actor Sienna Miller.

A small group of protesters gathered outside Portcullis House wearing Rupert Murdoch, Sir Paul Stephenson and David Cameron masks.

One held a placard emblazoned with the slogan "smash Murdoch's evil empire."

A number of protesters also gained access to the committee room and had to be ejected before proceedings commenced.