Rupert Murdoch admits phone hacking cover up
Rob Houglum LeadLinkMedia.com Thursday, April 26, 2012
Rupert Murdoch has admitted the Leveson inquiry there had been a "cover-up" at Reports International over the phone-hacking scandal.
Murdoch, the news Corp chairman 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 inquiry, declared there had been a consistent theme of cover-up during the phone-hacking scandal, and asked Murdoch where he believed this emanated from. "I think from inside the news of the World," he responded.
Murdoch said there were "one or two awfully strong characters" on the now-defunct Sunday paper who, according to reported statements, had prohibited folk from talking to Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch, at the time Reports International Chief Executive and head honcho respectively.
Murdoch asserted a News of the Earth editor was appointed referring to Colin Myler, though he did not name him at this point "with categorical 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 January 2007, after the news of the Planet royal newshound, Clive Goodman, and private detective Glenn Mulcaire admitted telephone hacking and went to jail. His predecessor, Andy Coulson, denied any understanding of telephone hacking but resigned, exclaiming he took responsibilty for what occurred.
Murdoch informed the inquiry Myler "would not have been my choice" and that he was the selection of Les Hinton, who at the time was Reports International's executive boss. He said he believed at the time there were stronger applicants from News International sister title the Sun.
Jay then questioned if Myler was a feeble 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 Stories Corp 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 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 reply was much too defensive and worse, disparaging of parliament."
Murdoch later revealed he wished he had closed the News of the Earth 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 newspapers took the opportunity to make this a big state scandal. It made folks all across the land mindful of this, you might feel the blast coming in the window," he informed the inquiry.
"I'll say it succinctly : I panicked, but I'm happy I did. And I am sorry I did not close it years before and put a Sun on Sun. 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, maybe correctly or incorrectly, was he telling the truth? And if I had come to the conclusion that he was speaking the truth, I would have gone in and ripped the place apart and we wouldn't be here today," he said.
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 inquiry the scandal spiralled into a "great, nationwide" issue after it emerged the Reports of the Planet 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 Sunday tabloid.
Asked by Jay whether the Dowler claims ultimately derailed the bid, Murdoch declared : "Well, I don't know 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 till the Milly Dowler notification, half which - look, I'm not making any excuses for it at all, but half of that has been somewhat disowned by the police."
Murdoch also said he was surprised at the extent of lobbying of the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt's office by Fred Michel, the news Co public affairs executive, while the Sky takeover bid was under regulatory examination between June 2010 and July 2011.
Murdoch declined to criticise Michel, but said he could have used "a bit of exaggeration" to inform his son James about his alleged proximity to the culture secretary.
Michel's activities were disclosed in a series of emails between him and James Murdoch, the news Company assistant chief operating officer, that were submitted to the Leveson inquiry and revealed on Monday.
Hunt's special confidant who dealt with Michel during 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