Open Mic

Point: PR-Wise, Rupert Murdoch Didn't Do Himself Any Good In His Appearance Before a Parliamentary Committee Last Week

Arthur Sando Posted July 25, 2011 at 2:14 AM

[Editor's Note: This commentary first appeared on Jeff Grimshaw's The TV News, which can be found at www.thetvnews.tv, and we appreciate Jeff letting us reprint it.]

As the News Corp. scandal continues to snowball, the company has done a couple of things right.

Running full-page apologies in all the British newspapers was one.

Having Rupert Murdoch meet personally with the family of the murdered girl whose cell phone was hacked was another.

Announcing creation of a Management and Standards Committee was a third. But while the Committee will be independently chaired, two News Corp. Board members will have direct governance and oversight, so that seemingly calls into question how independent the Committee really will be.

Most disappointing from a PR perspective, however, has been Rupert Murdoch’s performance before a committee of the British Parliament. After claiming it was "the most humble day of his career,” he acted anything but humble.

In answering questions, he pleaded ignorance, assigned blame and took no responsibility. He said The News of the World was too small a part of his empire for him to know what was going on there, and, when asked, point blank, “Mr. Murdoch, do you accept that, ultimately, you are responsible for this whole fiasco?,” his answer, astonishingly, was a simple, “No!”

He then went on to blame "the people I trusted to run it, and then maybe the people they trusted."

Here was his chance, served up on a platter, to show that he truly was humbled and sorry, but, instead, he stonewalled. It was a golden opportunity to demonstrate real courage and leadership, to say that even though perhaps he is not legally responsible for what has happened, as the Chairman and CEO of News Corp, he bears moral responsibility for the culture he’s created in his company and the behavior that has resulted.

The fallout from Hacking-gate is still far from over, with the FBI now investigating possible wrongdoing on this side of the Atlantic.

Murdoch told Parliament that he has no intention of resigning, and that he’s “the best man to clear this up.” A good way to start that process would be for him to re-think and restate his answer to the question of responsibility.