Phone hacking: 'Humbled' Murdoch rejects blame

Rupert Murdoch: "James and I would like to say how sorry we are"

Rupert Murdoch has said he cannot be held responsible for the scandal at the News of the World, saying he was let down by "people I trusted".

The News Corporation boss said he was not aware of the extent of phone hacking there and had "clearly" been misled by some of his staff.

His son, James, apologised to victims, saying hacking was "inexcusable".

The hearing was the first time Rupert Murdoch has faced direct scrutiny by MPs in his 40-year UK media career.

Foam pie

Two hours into the hearing, a man tried to throw a foam pie at Rupert Murdoch and proceedings were briefly suspended.

The protester appeared to lunge towards the News Corp chairman and chief executive but was fought off by a group of people, including Mr Murdoch's wife, Wendi. Jonathan May-Bowles, 26, has been charged with a public order offence.

In other developments:

Rupert and James Murdoch's appearance before the Commons culture, media and sport select committee lasted about three hours.

Faced with a series of questions from Labour MP Tom Watson, Mr Murdoch paused extensively and his son James made several attempts to intervene.

Start Quote

I was absolutely shocked, appalled and ashamed when I heard about the Milly Dowler case two weeks ago”

End Quote Rupert Murdoch

However, Mr Watson told him: "Your father is responsible for corporate governance, and serious wrongdoing has been brought about in the company.

"It is revealing in itself what he does not know and what executives chose not to tell him."

Milly Dowler case

Rupert Murdoch said his questioning by MPs - who are investigating alleged criminal behaviour at the News of the World and the extent of what senior executives knew - was the "most humble day of my life".

The News Corp boss said he was not aware of the extent of phone hacking at the company until earlier this year when it handed over new information to the police - triggering a new inquiry.

"I was absolutely shocked, appalled and ashamed when I heard about the Milly Dowler case two weeks ago," he told MPs.

Arguing that he ran a global business of 53,000 people and the paper was "just 1%" of this, he said he was not ultimately responsible for what went on at the News of the World.

Asked who was responsible, he said: "The people I trusted to run it and maybe the people they trusted."

Mr Murdoch said he was focused on his US newspaper interests and that he had "perhaps lost sight" of what was going on at the paper, saying he spoke to the editor "very seldom".

James Murdoch, chairman of News International, said the firm failed to live up to "the standards they aspired to" and was "determined to put things right and make sure they do not happen again".

He added: "I would like to say just how sorry I am and how sorry we are to particularly the victims of illegal voicemail interceptions and to their families."

Rupert Murdoch said he had not been made aware by News International management of out-of-court settlements made to a handful of victims of hacking.

'Rogue reporter'

James Murdoch said he was "surprised and shocked" to learn that News International had still been paying the legal fees of Glenn Mulcaire - the private investigator jailed for phone hacking in 2006 - while his father said he would like to end this arrangement.

Rupert Murdoch said a law firm, Harbottle and Lewis, had trawled through e-mails of six employees at the News of the World on the company's behalf while it defended itself against a claim for unfair dismissal by its former royal editor Clive Goodman.

Murdoch's 'shock' at News International paying some of Glenn Mulcaire's legal fees

He said the firm had written to News International to say there was nothing to suggest phone hacking was not the work of one "rogue reporter" working with Mulcaire - and the company had based its "push back" against new allegations on that advice.

Harbottle and Lewis later said it could not respond to "any inaccurate statements or contentions" about the letter due to client confidentiality.

Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks said later that she had only learned of the content of the e-mails in April - the evidence was handed to police on 20 June.

Scotland Yard later launched Operation Elvedon - an investigation into alleged corrupt payments to police officers.

In a separate hearing on Tuesday, former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord MacDonald, who was asked to review files from Harbottle and Lewis and advised News Corporation to hand them over to the police, said there was "evidence of serious criminal offences".

He said the News Corporation board was "shocked and stunned" but accepted his advice immediately.

Rupert Murdoch 'often entered Downing St by back door'

Rupert Murdoch said the News of the World had to close because it had "lost the trust" of the people after recent allegations and was not done for commercial reasons.

One of the reasons he had been forced to withdraw his bid to take full control of BSkyB, he added, was that its competitors had "caught us with dirty hands and created hysteria".

On his relationships with senior British politicians, he said he had been asked to No 10 "for a cup of tea" by David Cameron shortly after he entered Downing Street as a recognition of his support for the Conservatives before the election.

He said he had been asked to enter Downing Street by the back door - both by Mr Cameron and former prime minister Gordon Brown - because it would attract less attention.

Asked whether he had considered resigning - he said no because people he trusted had "let me down" and it was "for them to pay", adding: "I think that frankly I'm the best person to clear this up."

Rupert Murdoch said he had made his "share of mistakes" but at no time had he felt as "sickened" as when he found out what the Dowler family had been through.

He said he would work tirelessly to win the forgiveness of phone-hacking victims.

It was his understanding, he said, that when two men went to prison in 2007, the situation had been resolved.

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