I knew nothing, and I'm sorry.
That was the line that Rupert Murdoch gave over and over again during his marathon appearance before the British Parliament on Tuesday—one which was thrown into complete disarray when a protester attacked Murdoch with a foam pie.
Murdoch, his son James and former News International chief Rebekah Brooks all appeared before the committee to give evidence about the phone hacking scandal which has plunged Murdoch's News Corp into grave crisis and is roiling the political and police establishment in Britain. All three gave variations on the same theme: we were not aware.
"The News of the World is less than one percent of our company," Murdoch said in one typical exchange. "I employ 53,000 people around the world."
Murdoch was quick to apologize for the wrongdoing committed by News of the World journalists. He called his appearance "the most humble day of my life," and said he was shocked and appalled when he found out that his employees had hacked into the phone of Milly Dowler, the murdered 13-year-old.
But he insisted that any false statements he had made about the extent of phone hacking were the result of false information given to him, said there was no chance of him resigning his position, and refused point-blank to accept any responsibility for what had happened. Rather, he said, the "people I trusted" to manage his British newspapers should "pay" for the crisis. "I'm the best person to clean this up," he said.
Murdoch did not name who, exactly, betrayed him, and he pledged unswerving loyalty to Les Hinton and Rebekah Brooks, the two News International chiefs who have now been forced to resign as a result of their connection to the scandal. He did criticize former News of the World editor Colin Myler, who he said had conducted an insufficiently aggressive internal investigation of the newspaper that Murdoch set up to find out "what the hell was going on" there.
Towards the beginning of the testimony, Murdoch often appeared surprisingly uninformed about his company, claiming not to know about high-profile figures at the News of the World and saying that he only learned of a $700,000 payment made to settle a phone-hacking lawsuit by soccer star Gordon Taylor when he read about it in the newspaper.
Murdoch also said he rarely spoke to the editor of the News of the World, calling him maybe once a month, and only then to discuss what was in the next day's paper. By contrast, he said, he spoke to the editor of the Sunday Times once a week, and to the editor of the Wall Street Journal all the time.
James Murdoch repeatedly stepped in to explain the finer points of the News International operation. He trod into sticky territory when he admitted that News Corp might still be paying the legal fees of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who was jailed in 2006 for phone hacking. (Many reports have asserted that the company is absolutely still paying those fees.)
He was, he said, "very surprised" to find that the payments were still being made. Rupert Murdoch pledged to stop paying the fees.
James Murdoch also claimed not to have been aware of any wider phone-hacking operation until at least late 2010, saying that multiple investigations had cleared the company's name.
For a complete recap of the hearing, see below. And watch the video of Murdoch being attacked.
Wondering why a chunk of the world seems to have flipped out about this particular Parliamentary appearance? For a quick set of refreshers, check out this handy timeline with all of the key events in the scandal, as well as this comprehensive look back from our own Michael Calderone and Chris Kirkham.
Sir Paul Stephenson, the former Met commissioner who resigned over phone hacking, is testifying before a different committee in Parliament right now. He said that London Mayor Boris Johnson was adamant that he not resign—strange, since Johnson told the BBC that his leaving was the "right call."
|@ AJELive : Paul Stephenson: "In 2010, 70 per cent of my contacts for the press were for News of the World..." http://t.co/zFQ6A1G|
Wondering how you can see this blockbuster testimony? Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC will all be carrying live coverage, though MSNBC has indicated it won't be going wall-to-wall in its coverage. Keith Olbermann is also running live coverage over on Current TV. Moreover, the testimony is being streamed online on multiple outlet's websites, as well as on the Parliament's own channel.
We, of course, will be watching the BBC's coverage, which you can find here.
|@ arusbridger : E Standard: NotW chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck was official police source & got info in return http://bit.ly/oil0ky|
|@ CountdownKO : British Member of Parliament @tom_watson is crowdsourcing his questions for Rupert Murdoch #questions4murdoch #KONewsCorp|
Dick Fedorcio, the Met's PR guy, now testifying.
Michael Wollf, on Tiwtter, says he wouldn't be surprised if Murdoch steps down as News Corp CEO during the hearing. We shall see...
James Murdoch, looking the picture of cheerfulness, snapped outside News International headqaurters this morning. He's also set to testify. (AP photo)
Sophy Ridge, a Sky News correspondent, tweets that "just 15 journalists and 20 members of the public have made it into the room" for the hearing. It's being conducted in one of the smaller rooms.
John Yates, the deputy police commissioner who resigned due to his disastrous handling of the scandal, is now testifying. He says he has done "nothing wrong."
Lots of questions for the police about Neil Wallis, the ex-News of the World journalist who became an adviser to Scotland Yard—and was recently arrested in connection with the phone hacking operation. Every officer questioned has faced uncomfortable questions about their relationship with Wallis.
We are now, as they say, just minutes away from the DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport) Select Committee hearing where Rupert and James Murdoch, along with Rebekah Brooks, are set to testify. Sky News has a very useful breakdown of the people who will be grilling the three of them about their knowledge of, or involvement with, phone hacking.
The main people to watch, they say, are the chair of the committee, Conservative John Whittingdale, and Tom Watson, a Labour member who has taken on phone hacking as a personal crusade for years.
|@ iwantmedia : News Corp directors are fully behind Murdoch, board member says, denying reports of plans to replace Rupert as CEO http://t.co/qLzElnH|
Well, that's what always tends to happen, is it not?
It's beginning. We are so excited!
"Abuses have been revealed which have angered and shocked the entire country," Whittingdale says.
Starting with James. Whittingdale asks to what extent Parliament was misled by statements News International executives previously made.
James says "how sorry I am, and how sorry we are" to victims of phone-hacking.
"This is the most humble day of my life," Rupert adds.
James Murdoch says that the "full facts" that he wasn't aware of was the full extent of the phone hacking operation. Whittingale asks if he was lied to by any of his NI colleagues. He says he relied on "repeated" assertions from the police that there was nothing to investigate, and the legal opinion of "outside counsel," all of whom, he says, told NI there were only two people involved.
The "critical new facts," Murdoch says, emerged only in 2010. "Deep frustration" that the facts couldn't be found quicker.
He refuses to specifically say who else he knows to be involved in hacking, citing ongoing criminal proceedings.
"I have no knowledge and there is no evidence that I'm aware of" that Rebekah Brooks or Les Hinton was aware of phone hacking.
Tom Watson asks Rupert who lied to him about phone hacking, since he claims not to have known about him.
"Clearly" he was lied to, he says.
"News of the World is less than 1 percent of our company, I employ 53,000 people around the world," he says. "And I'm spread watching and appointing people whom I trust." He bangs on the table as he says this.
Murdoch says he didn't know about several big details about his employees' criminal court proceedings.
Tom Watson asks if Murdoch thinks a reporter being found guilty of blackmail is a "remarkable state of affairs." "No," Murdoch says.
James Murdoch pleads with Tom Watson to let him answer the questions he's asking Rupert. Watson refuses.
When were you informed about payments to Gordon Taylor (who was paid 0,000 by News International as a phone hacking settlement), Watson asks. "Nope," Murdoch says. Watson somewhat incredulously asks James why he didn't tell his father about it. James says that it was below Rupert's pay grade.
Watson asks when Rupert found evidence of "endemic" criminality at NI. Murdoch says that it's a hard word, and that he was "absolutely shocked and appalled" when he found out about Milly Dowler two weeks ago.
Watson asks why Murdoch closed down the News of the World before Rebekah Brooks resigned. Murdoch says he is trying to get them all jobs, and that he "felt ashamed of what had happened" at the News of the World. "We had broken our trust with our readers," he says, banging on the table again.
Murdoch is now being grilled by Jim Sheridan MP, who is going on about why he met with David Cameron at 10 Downing Street by going through the back door of the building. Murdoch is a lot more chatty talking about his relations with governments than with his own company.
Murdoch: "no evidence" of 9/11 victim hacking, and he would commission an investigation into them if true.
Murdoch says a mood of "hysteria" was built by rivals with "dirty hands" to scupper his BSkyB bid. James jumps in and notes that there was also quite a huge public backlash against the company because of, y'know, all the crimes.
Is Murdoch responsible for this whole fiasco? "Nope," he says, the people working under him who he trusted were.
Murdoch says the closure of NOTW was result of discussion between him, James and Rebekah Brooks.
Now, James Murdoch talks about the settlements to top footballer Gordon Taylor that's gotten him into so much trouble. He says it was the "advice and the clear view of the company" that NI would lose the case, and that it was cheaper to settle.
Rupert adds that James had only been in the company for a few weeks. "No, it was a few months," James says. Father-son squabbling!
|@ JohnRentoul : Utterly riveting to watch Wendi Murdoch in pink jacket behind Rupert. #indylive|
Mr. Chairman. Select Committee Members:
With your permission, I would like to read a short statement.
My son and I have come here with great respect for all of you, for Parliament and for the people of Britain whom you represent.
This is the most humble day of my career.
After all that has happened, I know we need to be here today.
Before going further, James and I would like to say how sorry we are for what has happened – especially with regard to listening to the voicemail of victims of crime.
My company has 52,000 employees. I have led it for 57 years and I have made my share of mistakes. I have lived in many countries, employed thousands of honest and hardworking journalists, owned nearly 200 newspapers and followed countless stories about people and families around the world.
At no time do I remember being as sickened as when I heard what the Dowler family had to endure – nor do I recall being as angry as when I was told that the News of the World could have compounded their distress. I want to thank the Dowlers for graciously giving me the opportunity to apologise in person.
I would like all the victims of phone hacking to know how completely and deeply sorry I am. Apologising cannot take back what has happened. Still, I want them to know the depth of my regret for the horrible invasions into their lives.
I fully understand their ire. And I intend to work tirelessly to merit their forgiveness.
I understand our responsibility to cooperate with today's session as well as with future inquiries. We will respond to your questions to the best of our ability and follow up if we are not capable of answering anything today. Please remember that some facts and information are still being uncovered.
We now know that things went badly wrong at the News of the World. For a newspaper that held others to account, it failed when it came to itself. The behaviour that occurred went against everything that I stand for. It not only betrayed our readers and me, but also the many thousands of magnificent professionals in our other divisions around the world.
So, let me be clear in saying: invading people's privacy by listening to their voicemail is wrong. Paying police officers for information is wrong. They are inconsistent with our codes of conduct and neither has any place, in any part of the company I run.
But saying sorry is not enough. Things must be put right. No excuses. This is why News International is cooperating fully with the police whose job it is to see that justice is done. It is our duty not to prejudice the outcome of the legal process. I am sure the committee will understand this.
I wish we had managed to see and fully solve these problems earlier. When two men were sent to prison in 2007, I thought this matter had been settled. The police ended their investigations and I was told that News International conducted an internal review. I am confident that when James later rejoined News Corporation he thought the case was closed too. These are subjects you will no doubt wish to explore today.
This country has given me, our companies and our employees many opportunities. I am grateful for them. I hope our contribution to Britain will one day also be recognised.
Above all, I hope that, through the process that is beginning with your questions today, we will come to understand the wrongs of the past, prevent them from happening again and, in the years ahead, restore the nation's trust in our company and in all British journalism.
I am committed to doing everything in my power to make this happen.
Thank you. We are happy to answer your questions.