Rupert Murdoch has said he cannot be held responsible for the "fiasco" at the News of the World newspaper, which has been at the centre of a phone-hacking scandal that has rocked his media empire.
Murdoch told a hearing at the British parliament on Tuesday that he had been misled over the scandal at his now defunct newspaper.
"I would just like to say one sentence. This is the most humble day of my life," he said shortly after the hearing began before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons.
"I would like to say just how sorry I am and just how sorry we are," James Murdoch, his son and chief executive of News Corporation's Europe and Asia operation, said in his opening remarks.
Two hours into the hearing, a man tried to throw a plate of foam at Murdoch senior and the proceedings were briefly suspended.
Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng, who was sitting behind him in the committee room, slapped the assailant and police rushed to arrest him.
Rebekah Brooks, who last week resigned as head of News Corp's British newspaper operations, appeared at the hearing later. She joined her former bosses in apologising to the British parliament for the hacking scandal.
Asked if she has any regrets, Brooks said: "Of course I have regrets, the idea that Milly Dowler's phone was accessed by someone getting paid by the News of the World, or even worse, authorised by someone at the News of the World, is as abhorrent to me as it is to everyone in this room. I also regret the speed in which we have found out, or tried to find out the bottom of this investigation, has been too slow."
Earlier, James Murdoch said: "It is a matter of great regret, of mine, of my father's, and everyone at News Corporation. These actions do not live up to the standards that our company aspires to everywhere around the world and it is our determination to put things right, to make sure these things do not happen again and to be the company that I know we have always aspired to be."
London police chief Paul Stephenson and anti-terrorism head John Yates, who have both resigned over their links to a former deputy editor of the News of the World newspaper at the heart of the scandal, also faced questioning on Tuesday by parliament's home affairs committee
News International had long maintained that the practice of intercepting mobile phone voicemails to get stories was the work of a sole "rogue reporter" on the News of the World newspaper.
However, that defence crumbled in the face of a steady drip-feed of claims by celebrities that they were targeted.
The parliamentary hearing follows the resignation on Monday of a second British police chief over the scandal, as well as news of the death of a key whistleblower and former News of the World journalist, Sean Hoare.
It was Hoare who told the New York Times that phone hacking at the tabloid was far more extensive than the paper had acknowledged at the time.
Police said Hoare's death was being treated as "unexplained, but not as suspicious".
|The death of journalist Sean Hoare is being treated as "unexplained, but not as suspicious" [Reuters]
News Corporation board member, Thomas Perkins, meanwhile, told the Associated Press that Murdoch had the full support of the company's board of directors, and denied reports that the board was considering elevating chief operating officer Chase Carey to replace him.
"I can assure you, there has been no discussion at the board level in connection with this current scandal of making any changes. The board supports top management totally,'' Perkins said.
"The board has been misled, as has top management been misled, by very bad people at a very low level in the organisation."
The floodgates surrounding the scandal burst two weeks ago when a lawyer for the family of a murdered teenage schoolgirl claimed the paper had hacked her phone when she was missing, deleting messages and raising false hopes she could be still alive.
The ensuing outrage prompted News Corporation to close the 168-year-old News of the World newspaper, drop a $12 billion plan to take full control of pay TV operator BSkyB, and the arrest of Brooks and other former senior journalists.
David Cameron, the British prime minister, cut short a trade trip to Africa and was due to return to the UK later in the day to attend an emergency debate that will take place in parliament on Wednesday, which is delaying its summer recess to address latest developments in the scandal.
Cameron has faced questions over his judgment in appointing former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who has also been arrested in phone-hacking inquiries. Coulson quit as Cameron's spokesman in January when the long-running scandal came back to life.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies