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 Co boss and chief executive, giving his 2nd day of proof to the investigation in London, said he was "misinformed and protected" from what was going on at the News of the World, adding that there was a "cover-up".
Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, said there had been a consistent theme of cover-up during the phone-hacking scandal, and asked Murdoch where he thought this emanated from. "I think from inside the news of the World," he replied.
Murdoch said there were "one or 2 awfully powerful characters" on the now-defunct Sun. paper who, according to reported statements, had forbidden folks from speaking to Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch, at the time Stories International Manager and head honcho respectively.
Murdoch stated that a Stories of the World editor was appointed making reference to Colin Myler, although he didn't name him at this point "with specific instructions to find out what was going on". "He did, I believe, put in 2 or 3 new steps of regulation but never reported back that there was more hacking than we had been told."
Myler was appointed in January 2007, after the news of the Planet royal newshound, Clive Goodman, and private detective Glenn Mulcaire admitted phone hacking and went to prison. His predecessor, Andy Coulson, denied any understanding of phone hacking but resigned, exclaiming he took responsibilty for what occurred.
Murdoch said to the inquiry Myler "would not have been my choice" and that he was the choice of Les Hinton, who at the time was Stories International's executive boss. He said 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," answered Murdoch. "I would hope Mr Myler would do what he was commissioned to do."
When asked by Jay whether Stories Company had managed the legal possibility of telephone hacking by covering it up, Murdoch responded : "No. There wasn't any attempt either at my level or a few levels below to hide it. We set up inquiry after inquiry, we employed legal firm after legal firm. Maybe we relied too much on the conclusions of the police.
"Our reply was far too defensive and worse, disrespectful of parliament."
Murdoch later exposed he wished 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 huge limelight, I believe papers took the chance to make this a massive national scandal. It made people all across the land aware of this, you might feel the blast coming in the window," he told the investigation.
"I'll say it succinctly : I panicked, but I'm pleased 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 World readers. Only 1/2 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, maybe correctly or incorrectly, was he speaking the truth? And if I had come to the realization that he was telling the truth, I'd have gone in and ripped the place apart and we would not be here today," he explained.
Earlier in the hearing, Murdoch concluded with Jay the phone-hacking scandal had forced Reports Corp to drop its controversial £8bn takeover bid for BSkyB in July 2011.
He said to the Leveson investigation the scandal spiralled into a "great, nationwide" issue after it emerged that the Stories of the Earth intercepted the voicemail messages of the murdered teen Milly Dowler.
Stories Corp withdrew its bid for BSkyB in July last year, nine days after the Guardian disclosed that Dowler's phone had been hacked by the Sun. tabloid.
Asked by Jay whether the Dowler claims eventually derailed the bid, Murdoch said : "Well, I don't know whether we are able to put it down to the Milly Dowler setback, but the hacking scandal, yes."
He added : "The hacking scandal was not a great national thing till the Milly Dowler disclosure, 1/2 which - look, I am not making any excuses for it at all, but half of that has been slightly disowned by the police."
Murdoch also said he was stunned at the limits 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 criticise Michel, but declared he could have used "a bit of exaggeration" to tell his son James about his claimed closeness to the culture secretary.
Michel's activities were disclosed in a series of emails between him and James Murdoch, the news Co deputy chief operating officer, that were submitted to the Leveson inquiry and made public on Monday.
Hunt's special confidant 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