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Rupert Murdoch spreads the blame for hacking

09/05/2012 na edição 693

 

Rupert Murdoch accused a senior lawyer at the News of the World of being behind a “culture of cover-up” that prevented the News Corp chairman from finding out the true scale of phone hacking at the Sunday tabloid.

Mr Murdoch, 81, told Lord Justice Leveson at an inquiry into media practices that the phone hacking was “totally wrong, and I regret it and . . . it’s going to be a blot on my reputation for the rest of my life”.

But although he said he bore overall responsibility for the behaviour of the newspaper staff who organised the hacking of thousands of phones belonging to people both famous and private, he laid the main blame on middle-ranking executives.

“The News of the World, I’ll be quite honest, was an aberration and it’s my fault,” Mr Murdoch said in one of a number of mea culpas in his near eight-hour testimony spread over two days.

But Robert Jay QC, counsel for the inquiry, pressed him on why the extent of phone hacking had not been exposed by senior executives in the months after the 2006 conviction of Clive Goodman, the royal editor News Corp presented as a “rogue reporter”, and Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective who did most of the hacking.

Mr Murdoch said: “I think the senior executives were all . . . misinformed and shielded from anything that was going on there.”

He added that “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”.

Mr Jay asked where the “culture of cover-up” came from, referring to attempts to limit the damage from the original Goodman and Mulcaire arrests that lasted from January 2007 to April 2011.

Mr Murdoch, without naming him, blamed a “clever lawyer” who he claimed was a friend and drinking crony of journalists at the paper and forbade them from reporting the wrongdoing to Rebekah Brooks, later chief executive of News International, and his son James.

Almost immediately, Tom Crone, the former legal manager of the now-defunct paper, issued a statement saying he was clearly identifiable as the person and described Mr Murdoch’s evidence as “a shameful lie”.

Mr Murdoch told the inquiry that his son James had approved a payout of more than £700,000 to the first civil phone-hacking claimant Gordon Taylor in 2008 partly because he was “pretty inexperienced at the time” and was persuaded by Mr Crone and Colin Myler, then editor of the paper. Between 2003 and 2007, James Murdoch had been chief executive of a FTSE 100 company, BSkyB.

In other evidence, Mr Murdoch said he had been “panicked” into closing the News of the World by outrage over the hacking of the phone of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old murder victim.

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