Murdoch admits to ‘cover-up’ at News of the World
LONDON RUPERT MURDOCH admitted on Thursday there was a “cover-up” over phone hacking at Britain’s News of the World tabloid, but said he too was misled over a scandal that would blot his reputation for ever.
The News Corp. chairman’s comments at an inquiry in London were branded a “shameful lie” by the tabloid’s former lawyer, who said Murdoch was referring to him and to the newspaper’s last editor before it closed in July 2011.
Murdoch, 81, told the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics he had failed in his handling of the crisis at the News of the World yet insisted that staff had hidden the extent of its wrongdoing from him and other executives.
“There’s no question in my mind that, maybe even the editor but certainly beyond that, someone took charge of a cover-up which we were victim to, and I regret that,” Murdoch said in his second and final day of testimony.
“I do blame one or two people for that, whom perhaps I shouldn’t name because for all I know they may be arrested yet,” he said, adding that as well as the editor he was thinking of a “clever lawyer”.
Tom Crone, the former legal director of the News of the World, later issued a statement saying the media mogul’s evidence “can only refer to me” and that he believed the paper’s final editor Colin Myler was also fingered.
“His assertion that I ‘took charge of a cover-up’ in relation to phone hacking is a shameful lie,” Crone said.
Crone added that it was “perhaps no coincidence” that he and Myler had both cast doubt on evidence given by Murdoch’s son James to a British parliamentary committee on hacking.
The parliamentary committee is due to report next Tuesday.
The News of the World’s royal editor and a private investigator were jailed in 2007 for phone hacking but the vast scale of the practice at the paper did not emerge until a new police probe in January 2011.
The scandal snowballed in July when it emerged the News of the World had illegally accessed the mobile phone voicemail messages of Milly Dowler, a murdered British schoolgirl, sparking public outrage.
Murdoch abruptly shut the Sunday tabloid when advertisers boycotted it, and Prime Minister David Cameron subsequently set up the Leveson Inquiry to probe the ethics of the press and its relations with politicians and police.
“The News of the World, to be quite honest, is an aberration and it’s my fault.
It’s going to be a blot on my reputation for the rest of my life,” Murdoch said in his sworn testimony.
Asked why he closed the paper so suddenly, the Australian-born tycoon replied: “I panicked. But I am glad I did... I am sorry I didn’t close it years before and put a Sunday Sun in.” He finally launched a Sunday version of The Sun — Britain’s biggestselling tabloid and the paper Murdoch said was closest to his heart — earlier this year.