Murdoch attacked at British MPs' hearing

Man throws plate of white foam at media mogul during parliament hearing into the phone hacking scandal.

    A protester threw a plate of white foam at News Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch during a committee hearing in the British parliament into a hacking scandal at one of his newspapers.

    Murdoch, 80, was not hurt and no doctor was required. Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng, who was sitting behind him in the committee room, slapped the assailant and police rushed to arrest him.

    A young man, wearing a checkered shirt and his face smeared in foam, was taken out of the room and placed in handcuffs.

    The hearing on Tuesday was suspended and journalists and members of the public were asked to leave. It resumed 15 minutes later with both Rupert Murdoch and his son James present.

    Murdoch appeared calm but had taken off the blue suit jacket that had been splashed in the attack.

    Earlier, the Murdochs apologised to the parliament over a phone hacking scandal that has engulfed their News Corporation organisation, but the veteran media mogul denied he was ultimately responsible for "this fiasco".

    Murdoch senior said he had told the truth about the scandal at his now defunct News of the World newspaper but had been misled over the matter, and said he closed the paper because the company was ashamed of what had happened.

    "I would just like to say one sentence. This is the most humble day of my life," he said shortly after the hearing began on Tuesday 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, chief executive of News Corp's Europe and Asia operation, said in his opening remarks on Tuesday.

    About 40 members of the public lined up outside Portcullis House, a modern office block across the road from the Houses of Parliament, where the Murdochs are being grilled by MPs.

    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."

    Rupert Murdoch, in his opening remarks, said: "I would just like to say one sentence. This is the most humble day of my life." 

    Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng and News Corp. executive Joel Klein, who is overseeing an internal investigation into the wrongdoing, sat behind him as he spoke.

    Following are highlights of the Murdochs' testimony.

    JAMES MURDOCH: "First of all I would just like to say how sorry I am and how sorry we are to particularly the victims of the illegal voicemail interceptions and to their families.

    "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."

    RUPERT MURDOCH: "I would just like to say one sentence. This is the most humble day of my life."

    JAMES MURDOCH: "I have no knowledge and there is no evidence that I am aware of that Mrs Brooks or Mr Hinton or any of those executives had knowledge of that and their assertions, certainly Mrs Brooks' assertion to me, of her knowledge of those things has been clear. Nonetheless those resignations have been accepted on the basis that there is no evidence today that I have seen or that I have any knowledge of, that there was any impropriety by them."

    JAMES MURDOCH: "It was in the due process of that civil trial and the civil litigation process that evidence really emerged for us, and we acted and the company acted as swiftly and transparently as possible."

    RUPERT MURDOCH: Asked if he was mislead: "Very".
    "This is not an excuse ... I employ 53,000 people around the world who are proud and great and ethical and distinguished people, professionals."

    RUPERT MURDOCH: "I was absolutely shocked, appalled and ashamed when I heard about the Milly Dowler case only two weeks ago."

     RUPERT MURDOCH: Asked if he has commissioned an investigation into allegations the FBI is investigating 9/11 hacking: "We have seen no evidence of that at all and as far as we know the FBI haven't either. I cannot believe that it happened to anyone in America."
    Asked if he would commission an investigation should the allegations turn out to be true in any way: "Absolutely."

    RUPERT MURDOCH: Asked "Do you accept that ultimately you are responsible for this whole fiasco?", Murdoch tersely replied: "No".
    When asked who he blamed, Murdoch said: "The people that I trusted to run it (his media empire) and then maybe the people they trusted."
    Asked about Les Hinton, who resigned as head of the Dow Jones operation last week, he said: "I worked with Mr Hinton for 52 years and I would trust him with my life."

    JAMES MURDOCH: Asked if News International would launch a new Sunday tabloid:
    "There are no immediate plans for that ... That is not the company's priority now. This is not the time to be worrying about that."

    RUPERT MURDOCH: "It doesn't get away from our apologies or our blame for anything but this country does greatly benefit from having a competitive press and therefore having a very transparent society. That is sometimes very inconvenient to people but I think we are better and stronger for it."

    RUPERT MURDOCH: Asked if they would think more carefully about the wording of headlines in future: "I think all our editors certainly will. I am not aware of any transgressions. It is a matter of taste."
    "We have in this country a wonderful variety of voices and they are naturally very competitive. I am sure there are headlines which can occasionally give offence but it's not intentional."

    RUPERT MURDOCH: Asked if familiar with the legal term "willful blindness": "I've heard of the phrase before and we were not ever guilty of that."

    RUPERT MURDOCH: Asked how often he speaks to the editors of his papers? "Very seldom." Says sometimes called the editor of the News of the World on a Saturday night, nearly always called editor of Sunday Times on a Saturday night.
    "Not to influence what he has to say at all. I am very careful to always premise any remark saying 'I'm just enquiring'". "I'm not really in touch. An editor I've spent most time with is the editor of the Wall Street Journal." "To say we're hands off is wrong. I work 10 or 12 hours a day and I can't tell you the multitude of issues I have to handle very day."

    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

    The Murdochs' appearance before parliament's media select committee, began at 2.30pm (13:30GMT), and is expected to attract a television audience of millions keen to follow the latest twist in the saga.

    Murdoch's Range Rover was surrounded as he arrived at the Houses of Parliament three hours before the hearing, and it quickly drove off.

    "It seems as if there will be standing-room only, that's not surprising as it's the first time Rupert Murdoch has been before a select committee in his 40 years of building up a media empire," Paul Farrelly, an opposition Labour committee member, said about Tuesday's hearing.

    Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of Murdoch's News International British newspaper arm who was arrested and bailed on Sunday on suspicion of phone hacking and police bribery, also faced the committee.

    Brooks opened her testimony by apologizing for the intercepts.

    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".

    Full support

    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 a 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


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