News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, while admitting today has been “the most humble day of my life,” played down his own role in the U.K. phone-hacking scandal that has damaged his media empire, Bloomberg reports.
The appearance by Murdoch and his son James Murdoch before a panel of the British Parliament continued this morning, with wide coverage on U.S. cable news channel — including News Corp.’s own Fox News. The panel is examining the growing phone-hacking scandal centered on News Corp.’s British tabloid News of the World, which the company recently shut down.
The proceedings were disrupted briefly just before noon ET, when a spectator approached the Murdochs suddenly. The intent was of the spectator was initially unclear, although he may have been attempting to hit Rupert Murdoch with a pie in the face. He was apparently quickly taken away in handcuffs.
Following a brief timeout, testimony resumed, and Rupert Murdoch was seen without the jacket he was wearing throughout the first part of the session. (This developing part of the story is being updated here.)
“The News of the World is less than 1 percent of our company,” Rupert Murdoch told Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee in earlier testimony. Murdoch added that he may have “lost sight’’ of what was happening at the tabloid because it was “so small in the general frame of the company.’’
According to the Bloomberg report: “The News Corp. chairman’s appearance before the committee, something he refused to do until forced by a summons, is a sign of how much the phone-hacking allegations have damaged News Corp.’s British operations. In two weeks, the company has closed a profitable newspaper, pulled out of a bid to buy the rest of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc, and lost two senior executives.”
The widening scandal has led to the resignations of two of Britain’s top law enforcement officers and has brought negative attention to Prime Minister David Cameron, who hired a former editor of News of the World as his director of communications.
In today’s grilling of Rupert and James Murdoch, efforts by James to draw attention away from his father have generally been ineffective.
Bloomberg reports: “As Labour lawmaker Tom Watson quizzed Rupert Murdoch at the start of the hearing, James Murdoch tried to intervene. Many of Rupert Murdoch’s answers were short and came after long pauses. ‘Nope,’ he replied when asked if he’d been informed of a 1 million-pound ($1.6 million) phone-hacking settlement. ‘It’s revealing in itself what he doesn’t know, and what executives chose not to tell him,’ Watson told James Murdoch, explaining why he was focusing his questions on his father.”
Rupert Murdoch deflected responsibility for the actions of employees of News of the World. When questioned about who was to blame, he responded: “The people that I trusted to run it, and then maybe the people that they trusted.”
According to the Bloomberg piece, not everyone finds Rupert Murdoch’s performance convincing. “Charlie Beckett, director of the media institute Polis at the London School of Economics, said Rupert Murdoch’s answers were ‘either a brilliant act or he’s lost it,’” the piece reports. “’He came alive on the politics but on the rest he is refusing to take any responsibility or show any detailed knowledge,’ Beckett said.”