Rupert Murdoch admits phone hacking cover up
Rob Houglum LeadLinkMedia.com Thursday, April 26, 2012
Rupert Murdoch has confessed to the Leveson inquiry there was a "cover-up" at Reports International over the phone-hacking scandal.
Murdoch, the News Company chairperson and Manager, giving his second day of proof to the investigation in London, said that he was "misinformed and defended" from what was going on at the news of the Earth, adding that there was a "cover-up".
Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, asserted there had been a consistent theme of cover-up in the phone-hacking scandal, and asked Murdoch where he believed this emanated from. "I think from inside the News of the World," he replied.
Murdoch related there were "one or 2 awfully robust characters" on the now-defunct Sun. paper who, according to reported statements, had banned people from chatting to Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch, at the time Reports World Chief Executive and head honcho respectively.
Murdoch asserted a News of the Planet editor was appointed talking about Colin Myler, although he didn't name him at that point "with categorical directions to find out what was going on". "He did, I believe, put in two or three new steps of regulation but never reported back that there was more hacking than we had been told."
Myler was appointed in Jan 2007, after the news of the Planet royal journalist, Clive Goodman, and PI Glenn Mulcaire admitted telephone hacking and went to prison. His predecessor, Andy Coulson, denied any knowledge of phone hacking but resigned, asserting he took responsibilty for what occurred.
Murdoch told the inquiry Myler "would not have been my choice" and he was the selection of Les Hinton, who at the time was News International's executive chairman. He said he believed at the time there were stronger candidates from Stories World sister title the Sun.
Jay then questioned if Myler was a puny individual and wrong man for the job. "I would say that was a slight exaggeration," replied Murdoch. "I would hope Mr Myler would do what he was commissioned to do."
When asked by Jay whether News Company had managed the legal possibility of telephone hacking by covering it up, Murdoch responded : "No. There was no attempt either at my level or a few levels below to cover it up. We set up investigation after investigation, we employed legal firm after legal firm. Perhaps we relied too much on the conclusions of the police.
"Our response was far too defensive and worse, disparaging of parliament."
Murdoch later disclosed he wished that he had closed the news of the Earth earlier and also admitted he panicked when the phone-hacking affair blew up into a major scandal in July 2011.
"When the Milly Dowler [story] was first given enormous limelight, I suspect papers took the opportunity to make this a huge national scandal. It made people all across the land mindful of this, you could feel the blast coming in the window," he said to the inquiry.
"I'll say it succinctly : I panicked, but I'm happy I did. And I am sorry I did not close it years before and put a Sun on Sun. in. I tell you what held us back : News of the Earth readers. Only half them read the Sun. Only 1 / 4, regular."
Murdoch said he also made a major mistake listening to lawyers when Goodman alleged that others on the News of the World knew about the phone hacking.
"I should have thrown all the lawyers out of the place and seen Mr Goodman one on one and cross-examined him myself and made up my mind, perhaps rightly or incorrectly, was he speaking the truth? And if I had come to the conclusion that he was telling the truth, I'd have gone in and ripped the place apart and we wouldn't be here today," he said.
Earlier during the hearing, Murdoch agreed with Jay the phone-hacking scandal had forced Reports Company to drop its questionable £8bn takeover bid for BSkyB in July 2011.
He informed the Leveson investigation the scandal spiralled into a "great, state" issue after it appeared the Reports of the Planet intercepted the voicemail messages of the murdered teen Milly Dowler.
Reports Corp withdrew its bid for BSkyB in July last year, nine days after the Guardian revealed that Dowler's phone had been hacked by the Sunday tabloid.
Asked by Jay whether the Dowler claims ultimately derailed the bid, Murdoch expounded : "Well, I'm not sure whether we can put it down to the Milly Dowler bad luck, but the hacking scandal, yes."
He added : "The hacking scandal wasn't a great countrywide thing until the Milly Dowler notification, 1/2 which - look, I'm not making any excuses for it at all, but half which has been slightly disowned by the police."
Murdoch also said he was surprised at the extent of lobbying of the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt's office by Fred Michel, the news Co public affairs executive, while the Sky takeover bid was under regulatory scrutiny between June 2010 and July 2011.
Murdoch declined to criticize Michel, but said he may have used "a bit of exaggeration" to tell his son James about his alleged proximity to the culture secretary.
Michel's activities were made public in a chain of mails between him and James Murdoch, the News Corp deputy chief operating officer, that were submitted to the Leveson inquiry and made public on Monday.
Hunt's special advisor who dealt with Michel during the Sky bid, Adam Smith, resigned on Wed..
Hunt made a statement to the Commons protecting his conduct over the takeover bid, but is still facing calls from Labour leader Ed Miliband to.
Tags: Rupert Murdoch, phone hacking, cover up, FOX NEWS