Rupert Murdoch admits phone hacking cover up
Rob Houglum LeadLinkMedia.com Thursday, April 26, 2012
Rupert Murdoch has confessed to the Leveson inquiry there had been a "cover-up" at News International over the phone-hacking scandal.
Murdoch, the News Corp boss and Manager, giving his 2nd day of proof to the inquiry in London, said that he was "misinformed and shielded" 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, 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 terribly robust characters" on the now-defunct Sun. paper who, according to reported statements, had forbidden people from talking to Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch, at the time News International Chief Executive and manager respectively.
Murdoch asserted a News of the Planet editor was chosen making reference to Colin Myler, although he didn't name him at that point "with express instructions to discover what was going on". "He did, I suspect, 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 January 2007, after the News of the Earth royal newshound, Clive Goodman, and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire admitted telephone hacking and went to prison. His predecessor, Andy Coulson, denied any knowledge of phone hacking but resigned, saying he took responsibilty for what occurred.
Murdoch said to the inquiry Myler "would not have been my choice" and that he was the selection of Les Hinton, who at the time was Stories International's executive boss. He revealed he thought at the time there were stronger candidates from Stories Global sister title the Sun.
Jay then questioned if Myler was a weak 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 Corp had managed the legal risk of telephone 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 inquiry 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, discourteous 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 believe papers took the chance to make this a massive nationwide scandal. It made folk all across the land mindful of this, you might 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'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 Earth readers. Only half of 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 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 wrongly, was he telling the truth? And if I had come to the opinion that he was being truthful, I'd have gone in and torn the place apart and we would not be here today," he added .
Earlier in the hearing, Murdoch agreed with Jay that the phone-hacking scandal had forced Stories Company to drop its controversial £8bn takeover bid for BSkyB in July 2011.
He told the Leveson investigation the scandal spiralled into a "great, state" issue after it appeared that the News of the World intercepted the voicemail messages of the murdered teenager Milly Dowler.
News Corp withdrew its bid for BSkyB in July last year, nine 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 said : "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 was not a great state thing till the Milly Dowler declaration, 1/2 which - look, I'm not making any excuses for it at all, but 1/2 that has been slightly disowned by the police."
Murdoch also said he was surprised 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 declined to criticise Michel, but declared he may have used "a bit of exaggeration" to inform his boy James about his purported nearness to the culture secretary.
Michel's activities were revealed in a chain of mails between him and James Murdoch, the News Company assistant chief operating officer, that were submitted to the Leveson investigation and revealed on Monday.
Hunt's special confidant who dealt with Michel in 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