Rupert Murdoch admits phone hacking cover up
Rob Houglum LeadLinkMedia.com Thursday, April 26, 2012
Rupert Murdoch has admitted to the Leveson inquiry there was a "cover-up" at Stories World over the phone-hacking scandal.
Murdoch, the News Company boss and CEO, giving his second day of proof to the inquiry in London, said he was "misinformed and protected" from what was going on at the news of the Earth, adding that there had been a "cover-up".
Robert Jay QC, counsel to the investigation, asserted 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 responded.
Murdoch declared there were "one or 2 very robust characters" on the now-defunct Sun. paper who, according to reported statements, had banned people from speaking to Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch, at the time Stories World chief executive and manager respectively.
Murdoch stated that a Stories of the Earth editor was appointed referring to Colin Myler, although he didn't name him at about that 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 was more hacking than we had been told."
Myler was appointed in January 2007, after the News of the Earth royal journalist, Clive Goodman, and private detective Glenn Mulcaire admitted phone hacking and went to prison. His predecessor, Andy Coulson, denied any understanding of telephone 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 choice of Les Hinton, who at the time was Stories International's executive boss. He said he suspected at the time there were stronger applicants 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," responded 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 answered : "No. There was no attempt either at my level or one or two levels below to hide it. We set up inquiry after investigation, we employed legal firm after legal firm. Perhaps we relied too much on the conclusions of the police.
"Our reply was far too defensive and worse, disparaging of parliament."
Murdoch later disclosed he wished he had closed the news of the Planet 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 publicity, I think newspapers took the opportunity to make this a massive national scandal. It made people all over the country aware of this, you could feel the blast coming in the window," he told the inquiry.
"I'll say it succinctly : I panicked, but I'm glad I did. And I'm sorry I didn't close it years before and put a Sun on Sunday in. I tell you what held us back : Reports of the World readers. Only half 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 wrongly, was he telling the truth? And if I had come to the conclusion that he was being truthful, I would have gone in and torn the place apart and we would not be here today," he added .
Earlier during the hearing, Murdoch concluded with Jay the phone-hacking scandal had forced Stories Company to drop its questionable £8bn takeover bid for BSkyB in July 2011.
He informed the Leveson inquiry the scandal spiralled into a "great, state" issue after it emerged that the Reports of the Earth intercepted the voicemail messages of the murdered teenager Milly Dowler.
Stories Company withdrew its bid for BSkyB in July last year, 9 days after the Guardian exposed that Dowler's telephone had been hacked by the Sun. tabloid.
Asked by Jay whether the Dowler claims eventually derailed the bid, Murdoch declared : "Well, I don't know whether we can put it down to the Milly Dowler setback, but the hacking scandal, yes."
He added : "The hacking scandal wasn't a great countrywide thing till the Milly Dowler notification, half which - look, I am not making any excuses for it at all, but 1/2 which has been rather disowned by the police."
Murdoch also said he was shocked at the limit of lobbying of the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt's office by Fred Michel, the news Company public affairs executive, while the Sky takeover bid was under regulatory scrutiny between June 2010 and July 2011.
Murdoch declined to criticise Michel, but said he could have used "a bit of exaggeration" to inform his child James about his alleged proximity to the culture secretary.
Michel's activities were revealed 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 revealed on Monday.
Hunt's special adviser who dealt with Michel during the Sky bid, Adam Smith, resigned on Wednesday.
Hunt made a statement to the Commons defending 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