A British parliamentary report has said that media mogul Rupert Murdoch showed "willful blindness" over phone hacking at his News of the World tabloid and is not fit to run a major company.
"We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company," the cross-party culture committee said on Tuesday in its long-awaited report on the scandal.
"[The Murdochs] brought shame on our police force and our parliament. They lied and cheated, blackmailed and bullied. And we should all be ashamed when we think how we cowered before them for so long."
- MP Tom Watson
"News International and its parent News Corporation exhibited willful blindness, for which the companies' directors, including Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch, should ultimately take responsibility," the committee said in its 121-page report.
"If at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone-hacking, he turned a blind eye to what was going on in his companies and publications," it said.
Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee, reporting from London, said the report leaves Murdoch's corporate future in question, specifically, his company's bid to take over BSkyB, Britain's biggest satellite TV firm.
"It may be that BSkyB is the first thing that's hived off by the Murdochs to try and save what's left of their corporate reputation," said Lee.
The committee, which approved the report by a majority of six to four, scolded News Corporation for misleading the British parliament and trying to cover up illegal phone hacking at the tabloid, News of the World, which Murdoch closed down in disgrace in July last year.
News Corporation responded to the report in a written statement on Tuesday, saying that it revealed "hard truths" - among them, that the company's "response to the wrongdoing was too slow and too defensive".
But the statement also brought up the partisan politics within the committee, pointing to the fact not all of the committee's findings were unanimous and that they were divided "along party lines".
Murdoch and his son, James Murdoch, who was News International's executive chairman at the time, both gave evidence to the committee on July 19 last year, when Murdoch senior was attacked with a foam pie by a protester.
James was forced to resign as executive chairman in February last year. He later also stepped down as chairman of BSkyB, but remains on its board.
The committee's report, entitled "News International and Phone-Hacking", said senior executives at the company had misled their investigation.
The panel said it was now for parliament's lower House of Commons to decide "what punishment should be imposed" on those it thinks have treated the committee with contempt.
The report singled out former News International executive chairman Les Hinton, former News of the World legal manager Tom Crone and the newspaper's final editor Colin Myler as having misled the committee.
The Murdochs blamed Crone and News of the World former editor Colin Myler for the scandal.
Labour MP Tom Watson, himself a target of phone hacking, held Rupert Murdoch chiefly responsible.
"More than any individual alive, he's to blame. Morally, the deeds are his. He paid the piper, and he called the tune," said Watson.
"It is his company, his culture, his people, his business, his failure, his lies, his crimes, the price of profits and his power."
Watson added that the Murdochs "brought shame on our police force and our parliament. They lied and cheated, blackmailed and bullied. And we should all be ashamed when we think how we cowered before them for so long".
Rupert Murdoch apologised for the scandal but told the Leveson inquiry into press ethics last week that "one or two very strong characters" at News International had hidden the hacking scandal from him.
His 39-year-old son has also apologised for failing to get to the bottom of the scandal but said he was kept in the dark by staff at the paper.