Rupert Murdoch admits phone hacking cover up
Rob Houglum LeadLinkMedia.com Thursday, April 26, 2012
Rupert Murdoch has confessed to the Leveson investigation there had been a "cover-up" at Reports World over the phone-hacking scandal.
Murdoch, the news Company chairman and CEO, giving his 2nd day of evidence to the investigation in London, said he was "misinformed and protected" 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, said 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 declared there were "one or 2 very powerful characters" on the now-defunct Sun. paper who, according to reported statements, had banned folks from speaking to Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch, at the time Stories Global Manager and head honcho respectively.
Murdoch said a Reports of the Earth editor was appointed making reference to Colin Myler, though he didn't name him at this point "with specific instructions to discover what was going on". "He did, I suspect, put in 2 or 3 new steps of regulation but never reported back that there had been more hacking than we had been told."
Myler was appointed in Jan 2007, after the news of the Planet royal newshound, Clive Goodman, and private detective Glenn Mulcaire admitted phone hacking and went to jail. His predecessor, Andy Coulson, denied any awareness 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 chairperson. He revealed he thought 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 Corp had managed the legal likelihood of phone hacking by covering it up, Murdoch answered : "No. There wasn't any attempt either at my level or a few levels below to cover it up. We set up investigation after inquiry, we employed legal firm after legal firm. Perhaps we relied too much on the conclusions of the police.
"Our response was much too defensive and worse, disrespectful of parliament."
Murdoch later disclosed he wished that he had closed the News of the World 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 publicity, I believe papers took the opportunity to make this a big nationwide scandal. It made folk all across the land aware of this, you could feel the blast coming in the window," he told the investigation.
"I'll say it succinctly : I panicked, but I'm happy I did. And I'm sorry I did not close it years before and put a Sun on Sunday in. I tell you what held us back : Reports of the Planet readers. Only 1/2 them read the Sun. Only a quarter, 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 of the counsels out of the place and seen Mr Goodman one on one and cross-examined him myself and made up my mind, maybe properly or incorrectly, was he telling the truth? And if I had come to the conclusion that he was telling the truth, I'd have gone in and torn the place apart and we wouldn't be here today," he added .
Earlier during the hearing, Murdoch agreed with Jay the phone-hacking scandal had forced News Corp to drop its questionable £8bn takeover bid for BSkyB in July 2011.
He said to the Leveson inquiry the scandal spiralled into a "great, national" issue after it emerged the Reports of the Planet intercepted the voicemail messages of the murdered teenager Milly Dowler.
Reports Company withdrew its bid for BSkyB in July last year, 9 days after the Guardian revealed that Dowler's telephone had been hacked by the Sun. 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 misfortune, but the hacking scandal, yes."
He added : "The hacking scandal was not a great countrywide thing until the Milly Dowler declaration, half which - look, I am not making any excuses for it at all, but half of that has been rather disowned by the police."
Murdoch also said that he was stunned at the extent of lobbying of the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt's office by Fred Michel, the News Corp public affairs executive, while the Sky takeover bid was under regulatory examination between June 2010 and July 2011.
Murdoch refused to criticize Michel, but related he may have used "a bit of exaggeration" to tell his son James about his purported nearness to the culture secretary.
Michel's activities were revealed in a series of mails between him and James Murdoch, the news Corp assistant chief operating officer, that were submitted to the Leveson investigation and revealed on Monday.
Hunt's special advisor who dealt with Michel during the Sky bid, Adam Smith, resigned on Wednesday.
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