Rupert Murdoch eats large slice of humble pie

FRESH questions about News International's attempts to cover up the phone hacking furore emerged last night after a defiant Rupert Murdoch told MPs he was not responsible for the scandal enveloping his company.

In a dramatic day at Westminster, the 80-year-old founder of News Corp said he had been "betrayed" by managers at his firm's Wapping offices, including those who told him the practice of phone hacking was the work of a "rogue reporter".

Mr Murdoch began his evidence by saying it was "the most humble day of my life". When asked why he had made the decision to close the News of the World after 168 years, he admitted: "We felt ashamed at what happened. We had broken our trust with our readers."

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But two hours into a three-hour session before the culture, media and sport committee in Portcullis House, proceedings were interrupted when a lone protester attempted to throw a foam pie at the media tycoon. Mr Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng, sprang up to help fight off the protester who was later arrested.

When the hearing resumed, Mr Murdoch was asked if he considered resigning over the scandal. He said: "No, because I feel people I trusted, I don't know at what level, let me down and I think they behaved disgracefully, betrayed the company and me and it's for them to pay."

Later, former chief executive Rebekah Brooks told the committee she had no knowledge of the phone hacking operation or illegal payments to police.


• PM's top adviser blocked police from briefing him on hacking

• Rebekah Brooks disgusted by Milly Dowler phone hacking

• Police 'will be jailed' because of evidence from News International

• 'Humble' Murdoch clings on to reins of empire's power

• Authorities investigate foam attack incident

• What their body language revealed

• Sketch: Murdoch family circles the wagons as contrite patriarch Rupert's

credibility goes for a little walkabout

Earlier in the day in his last official duty, outgoing Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson told the Home Affairs select committee he had not been "pushed" from his job. Sir Paul and assistant police commissioner John Yates both resigned earlier this week,

Sir Paul quit over the force's decision to hire former NotW deputy editor Neil Wallis as a public relations adviser. "Contrary to much ill-informed media speculation, I'm not leaving because I was pushed, I'm not leaving because I have anything to fear or threatened, I'm not leaving because of any lack of support from the mayor (Boris Johnson], the Prime Minister (David Cameron] or indeed the Home Secretary (Theresa May]," he said.

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Brooks proffered her "personal apology" for the incidents - adding she found the idea that a News International official would have sanctioned the hacking of murdered Milly Dowler's phone "staggering".

Last night, there was no sign of the crisis abating at News International, with questions being asked about its employment of a firm of lawyers to investigate phone hacking who reportedly concluded the company had no case to answer, despite an internal file containing e-mails understood to implicate several News of the World executives in both phone hacking and payments to the police.

MPs last night claimed the Murdoch's management team may have been guilty of "wilful blindness" by commissioning the law firm to reach a conclusion they hoped to get - a phrase coined after the Enron scandal.

Last night Colin Myler, the former NotW editor, hit back at Mr Murdoch's claim he was responsible for hiring the lawyers, Harbottle & Lewis. Mr Myler claimed he knew nothing about it, adding he had been told by a senior News International director: "Good news, there is no smoking gun or silver bullet (in the e-mails]."

In his evidence, Mr Murdoch acknowledged he might have been guilty of "laxity" in keeping tabs on the News of the World, which he said made up just 1 per cent of his global empire. His knowledge of the UK company was illustrated when asked about one of those implicated, former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck. "I have never heard of him," he said.

Mr Murdoch admitted he was focused on his US newspapers and had "perhaps lost sight" of what was going on. He stumbled over answers to questions on timing of events, as MPs sought to demonstrate he had failed to get to grips with the crisis.

Under intense questioning, his son James, the chairman of News International whose future has looked uncertain, insisted he had only been made aware of the true picture of phone hacking in 2010 - having taken the word of Harbottle & Lewis's letter.

"It was one of the bases for…the push back the company made against new allegations," he said. "It was one of the pillars of the environment around the place that led the company to believe all these things were a matter of the past."

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But he then declined to withdraw the contentious letter from the lawyers, saying he would take legal advice on the matter.

He said he was "frustrated" it had only been in 2010 that full details of the file emerged. It was discovered last year at Harbottle & Lewis's office.

He said: "It's a matter of real regret that the facts could not emerge and could not be gotten to, to my understanding, faster."

Yesterday's session was the first time Rupert Murdoch, founder of News Corp, appeared before MPs, despite being one of the most influential figures in British media for over 40 years.

His appearance, however, pushed News Corp's shares 5.5 per cent higher in the United States yesterday - after falls earlier in the week. He concluded his evidence in shirt sleeves, following the foam attack, and appeared more relaxed than at the beginning.

Asked about his influence on Britain's political leaders, Mr Murdoch revealed that he had been asked to go through the back door of Downing Street when meeting David Cameron last year after the Conservative leader had won the general election. He added: "I wish they'd leave me alone."

In dealings with the editors of his newspaper titles, Mr Murdoch insisted he never told them what to write. "I speak to the editor of the Sunday Times every Saturday evening. I preface my remarks by saying I'm just enquiring," he said. He added: "I'm not really in touch. If there is an editor I spend time with it is the editor of the Wall Street Journal."James Murdoch repeatedly sought to distance himself from events prior to his arrival at the helm in 2009. He insisted that out-of-court settlements with figures such as PR figure Max Clifford had not been to "buy their silence"

Rupert Murdoch said Britain benefited from a competitive press. He claimed some people were trying to "build this hysteria" while News Corp was seen to have "dirty hands". He said: "This country does greatly benefit from having a competitive press and therefore having a very transparent society.

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"That is sometimes inconvenient to people but I think we are better and stronger for it."

Both father and son denied journalists had hacked into the phones of relatives of the 9/11 victims.

Before the session ended, Rupert Murdoch said: "I was absolutely shocked, appalled and ashamed when I heard about the Milly Dowler case two weeks ago." He admitted making his "share of mistakes" but at never felt as "sickened" as when he found out what the Dowler family had been through.

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