‘Humbled’ Murdoch denies responsibility for phone hacking (Lead)

July 20th, 2011 - 12:24 am ICT by IANS  

London, July 19 (IANS) Media baron Rupert Murdoch, who appeared Tuesday at an hearing by a British parliamentary committee over the phone hacking scandal, said that he could not be held responsible for the wrongdoing by the News of the World, but stated that he was let down by “people I trusted”.

The News Corporation boss claimed being unaware of the extent of phone hacking there and had “clearly” been misled by some of his staff, the BBC reported.

But he said that he was “humbled” to have to explain his firm’s conduct to MPs.

The proceedings were disrupted when an unidentified man attacked Murdoch with what seemed to be a plate of shaving foam. The assailant was taken into custody by police and the hearing resumed after a 10-minute break.

Murdoch’s son James Murdoch apologised to affected victims, saying that hacking was “inexcusable” and a “matter of great regret”.

Following expose of the phone-hacking scandal at the News of World (NoW), Murdoch had to shut the 168-year-old tabloid July 10. Rebekah Brooks, the then editor of NoW at the time of phone hacking scandal resigned as the News International’s chief executive.

The NoW is accused of hacking into phones of crime victims, celebrities and politicians.

In January 2007, royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were both jailed for plotting to intercept voice mail messages.

Mulcaire had hacked into teenage murder victim Milly Dowler’s mobile phone and then deleted messages. The phone-hacking had caused an uproar in Britain.

On Tuesday Murdoch’s appearance before the Commons media committee was the first time he faced direct scrutiny by MPs during his 40-year media career in Britain.

Murdoch, faced with a series of questions from Labour MP Tom Watson, paused extensively and James made many attempts to intervene.

But Watson made it clear that he wanted to hear answers from the father and not the son.

He added: “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.”

Murdoch said he was not aware of the extent of phone hacking at his owned 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 one percent” of this, he said he was not ultimately responsible for what went at the News of the World.

Asked who was responsible for this he said: “The people I trusted to run it and maybe the people they trusted”.

Earlier, James Murdoch said hacking by the NoW was a “matter of great regret”. He said his firm failed to live to “the standards we aspired to”.

Opening the hearing, committee chair John Whittingdale said abuses had been uncovered “which had shocked and angered the country” and it was clear parliament had been misled.

The Murdochs had initially refused to appear before the committee but changed their minds following the summons they were issued to appear before MPs.

Prior to Murdochs, Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, while facing questions from the MPs, denied any impropriety in the hiring of former News of the World journalist Neil Wallis to provide media support to the police force. But he said that he now regretted the appointment.

Wallis was recently arrested as part of the phone hacking inquiry.

On Sunday, Sir Paul quit amid criticism of his force’s handling of the phone hacking saga.

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