LONDON - A protester
splattered Rupert Murdoch with white foam on Tuesday, interrupting a
dramatic hearing in which the media baron told British lawmakers he was
not responsible for a phone hacking scandal that has rocked his global
Murdoch appeared by turns vague, truculent, sharp and
concise as he spoke alongside his son and deputy, James, calling the
parliamentary inquisition "the most humble day of my career" but
refusing to take personal blame for the crisis that has swept from a
tabloid newspaper through the top levels of Britain's police and even
to the prime minister's office.
Murdoch, 80, said he was
"shocked, appalled and ashamed" at the hacking of the phone of a
murdered schoolgirl by his now-shuttered News of the World tabloid.
he quibbled with a suggestion that criminality had been endemic at the
tabloid and said he had seen no evidence that victims of the Sept. 11,
2001 terror attack and their relatives were targeted by any of his
"Endemic is a very hard, a very wide ranging word,"
Murdoch said. "I also have to be very careful not to prejudice the
course of justice that is taking place now."
Murdoch said he was not responsible for the hacking scandal, and denied his company was guilty of wilful blindness over hacking.
He laid blame on "the people I trusted but they blame maybe the people that they trusted."
more than two hours of testimony, a man in a plaid shirt appeared to
run toward Murdoch before being struck by his wife Wendi Deng.
in the back of the committee room were holding an apparently handcuffed
man with white foam covering his face and shirt. The foam also appeared
to have hit Murdoch's suit.
The hearing resumed after a short
break, with an apology from Murdoch loyalist, Rebekah Brooks, who
apologized for the intercepts.
Media reports identified the
protester as Jonnie Marbles, a British comedian. Just before the
attack, he wrote on his Twitter feed: "It is a far better thing that I
do now than I have ever done before (at)splat," a slightly altered
quotation from the last sentence of Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two
Two of Murdoch's top executives, Brooks and Les Hinton,
have resigned over the scandal — something Murdoch said was a matter of
"I've worked with Mr Hinton for 52 years and I would trust him with my life," he said.
also told the committee that he didn't believe the FBI had uncovered
any evidence of hacking of Sept. 11 victims in a recently launched
He said he lost sight of News of the World because it
is such a small part of his company and spoke to the editor of the
paper only around once a month, talking more with the editor of the
Sunday Times in Britain and the Wall Street Journal in the U.S.
value of the Murdochs' News Corp. added around $2 billion while they
were being grilled, trading 5.3 per cent higher at $15.74. The stock
has taken a battering over the past couple of weeks, shedding around 17
per cent of its value, or around $8 billion.
apologized for the scandal, telling British lawmakers that "these
actions do not live up to the standards our company aspires to."
younger Murdoch said the company acted as swiftly and transparently as
possible. Rupert Murdoch acknowledged, however, that he did not
investigate after Brooks, the Murdochs' former U.K. newspaper chief,
told parliament years ago that the News of the World had paid police
officers for information.
Asked by lawmakers why there was no investigation, he said: "I didn't know of it."
He says the News of the World "is less than 1 per cent" of his News Corp., which employs 53,000 people.
also said he was not informed that his company had paid out big sums —
700,000 pounds ($1.1 million) in one case — to settle lawsuits by phone
James Murdoch said his father became aware of
the settlement "in 2009 after a newspaper report. It was a confidential
He said a civil case of that nature and size would
be dealt with by the executives in the country involved — in this case
himself, as head of News Corp.'s European and Asian operations.
Murdoch said news organizations need to put a stronger emphasis on
ethics in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, telling lawmakers that
"we do need to think in this country more forcefully and thoughtfully
about our journalistic ethics."
Rupert Murdoch's wife, Deng and
News Corp. executive Joel Klein, who is overseeing an internal
investigation into the wrongdoing, sat behind him as he spoke.
elder Murdoch denied that the closure of the News of the World was
motivated by financial considerations, saying he shut it because of the
There has been speculation that Murdoch
wanted to close the Sunday newspaper in order to merge its operations
with the six-days-a-week Sun, which some have speculated will relaunch
as a seven-day publication.
Politicians also pushed for details
about the Murdochs' ties to Prime Minister David Cameron and other
members of the British political establishment.
In a separate
hearing, lawmakers questioned London police about reports that officers
took bribes from journalists to provide inside information for tabloid
scoops and to ask why the force decided to shut down an earlier phone
hacking probe after charging only two people.
Detectives reopened the case earlier this year and are looking at a potential 3,700 victims.
scandal has prompted the resignation and subsequent arrest of Brooks
and the resignation of Wall Street Journal publisher Les Hinton, sunk
the Murdochs' dream of taking full control of lucrative satellite
broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting and raised questions about his
control of his global media empire.
Brooks testified after the
Murdochs, opening her remarks with an apology for phone hacking and
described allegations of voicemail intercepts of crime victims as
"pretty horrific and abhorrent."
She said she was told by the
News of the World that allegations of phone hacking by the paper's
journalists were untrue, and that she only realized the gravity of the
situation when she saw documents lodged in a civil damages case by
actress Sienna Miller last year.
"We had been told by people at
News of the World at the time, they consistently denied any of these
allegations in various internal investigations," she said.
Asked whether she had been lied to by senior employees at the newspaper, Brooks declined to answer.
because of the criminal procedure, I'm not sure that it's possible to
infer guilt until those criminal procedures have taken place," she
said. Brooks also said she had never knowingly sanctioned a payoff to a
Rupert Murdoch is eager to stop the crisis from
spreading to the United States, where many of his most lucrative assets
— including the Fox TV network, 20th Century Fox film studio, The Wall
Street Journal and the New York Post — are based.
CNN host Piers
Morgan, who was editor of the News of the World for two years in the
1990s and is now based in the United States, denied any link to the
"I've never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, or published any stories based on the hacking of a phone," he said.
departing police chief revealed that 10 of the 45 press officers in his
department used to work for News International, but he denied there are
any improper links between the force and Murdoch's media empire.
understand that there are 10 members of the (Department of Public
Affairs) staff who have worked in News International in the past, in
some cases journalists, in some cases undertaking work experience with
the organization," Paul Stephenson said.
News International is the British newspaper division of Murdoch's global News Corp.
denied wrongdoing, or knowing the News of the World was engaged in
phone hacking — but acknowledged that in retrospect he was embarrassed
the force had hired Neil Wallis, a former executive of the paper, as a
After being asked about his relationship with
Wallis, who was arrested last week, Stephenson said he had "no reason
to connect Wallis with phone hacking" when he was hired for the
part-time job in 2009.
He said now that the scale of phone hacking at the paper has emerged, it's "embarrassing" that Wallis worked for the police.
announced his resignation Sunday, saying allegations about his contacts
with Murdoch's News International were a distraction from his job.
was followed out the door by assistant commissioner John Yates, who
gave evidence before the hotly anticipated appearance by the Murdochs.
Yates has denied wrongdoing and said that, with the benefit of
hindsight, he would have re-opened an inquiry into electronic
eavesdropping of voicemail messages.
Police force said Tuesday it had asked a watchdog to investigate its
head of public affairs over the scandal — the fifth senior police
official being investigated. The Independent Police Complaints
Commission will look at Dick Fedorcio's role in hiring a former News of
the World executive as an adviser to the police.
Members of the
public and journalists lined up hours ahead of time in hope of a spot
in the small committee room, which holds about 40 people. More will be
able to watch in an overspill room, and Britain's TV news channels are
anticipating high ratings for the appearance.
Murdoch's car was
mobbed by photographers as he arrived three hours before the hearing.
The Range Rover quickly drove off, returning returned to Parliament
about half an hour before the hearing was due to start.
cut short a visit to Africa and is expected to return to Britain for an
emergency session Wednesday of Parliament on the scandal.
former News of the World reporter, Sean Hoare, who helped blow the
whistle on the scandal, was found dead Monday in his home. Police said
the death was "unexplained" but is not being treated as suspicious. A
post-mortem was being conducted Tuesday. Hoare was in his late forties.
spokesman, David Wilson, said police had been handed a bag containing a
laptop and papers that belong to her husband, former racehorse trainer
Charlie Brooks. Wilson said the bag did not contain anything related to
the phone hacking scandal and he expected police to return it soon.
bag was found dumped in an underground parking lot near the couple's
home on Monday, but it was unclear how exactly it got there. Wilson
said Tuesday that a friend of Charlie Brooks had meant to drop the bag
off, but he would say only he left it in the "wrong place."
New York, News Corp. appointed commercial lawyer Anthony Grabiner to
run its Management and Standards Committee, which will deal with the
scandal. But News Corp. board member Thomas Perkins told The Associated
Press that the 80-year-old Murdoch has the full support of the
company's board of directors, and it was not considering elevating
Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey to replace Murdoch as CEO of News
Britain's Independent Police Complaints Commission also is
looking into the phone hacking and police bribery claims, including one
that Yates inappropriately helped get a job for the daughter of Wallis.
Wallis has been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept
London police also confirmed that they once
employed a second former News of the World employee besides Wallis.
Alex Marunchak had been employed as a Ukrainian language interpreter
with access to highly sensitive police information between 1980 and
2000, the Metropolitan Police said.
The police force said it
recognized "that this may cause concern and that some professions may
be incompatible with the role of an interpreter," adding that the
matter will be looked into.
Meanwhile, Internet hackers took aim
at Murdoch late Monday, defacing the sites of his other U.K. tabloid,
The Sun, and shutting down website of The Times of London. Visitors to
The Sun website were redirected to a page featuring a story saying
Murdoch's dead body had been found in his garden.
hacking collective Lulz Security took responsibility for that hacking
attack via Twitter, calling it a successful part of "Murdoch Meltdown
Lulz Security, which has previously claimed hacks on
major entertainment companies, FBI partner organizations and the CIA,
hinted that more was yet to come, saying "This is only the beginning."
later took credit for shutting down News International's corporate
website. Another hacking collective known as Anonymous claimed the
cyberattack on The Times' website.
Danica Kirka and Bob Barr contributed to this report.
Jill Lawless can be reached at http://twitter.com/JillLawless