Murdoch: “I’m out of touch”
Update: Thanks to party/parties unknown for the wonderful graphic by Donkey Hotey! Rupe in pimp regalia is most appropriate.
This is a crosspost from MercuryRising of my liveblog of the Murdoch/Brooks hearing before Parliament. Apologies if I have missed another diary on the topic.
“Testimony to the Committee on Culture, Media, and Sport. Murdoch’s properties aren’t culture, so I guess this is either about media or sport. See Guardian for full live blog.
Not very enlightening testimony. Rupert feigns deafness, James emphasizes that hush money to victims was paid out after the criminal case had been settled and the police had limited responsibility to Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire and Co. Rupert answers a pointed question about willful blindness to say that they didn’t do any such thing. James claims not to know the limits for payouts that have to be reported higher up, or how they’re accounted for, but asserts that they comply with all tax regulations. Rupert says that payoffs to Mulcaire after conviction must have been authorized at levels higher than managing editor–either Les Hinton or chief legal officer. James denies knowing about these post-trial payouts, says he was surprised.
They’re lying, of course, but probably not in a prosecutable way, unless their firewall breaks.
[Update, 7/21: the firewall has partially broken. From David Leigh and Nick Davies at The Guardian, the claim that editor Tom Crone and counsel Colin Myler had withheld an e-mail showing that the hacking was not confined to one rogue reporter has been contradicted by Crone and Myler.]
So, how much were Brooks and Hinton paid on severance? Rupert says it’s confidential. James says there’s commercial confidentiality, but nothing to hinder legal inquiries.
Now we get the our lawyers lied to us defense over the discovery of a dossier of documents at their law firm. What did you do about it once you found out? Well, we passed the dossier to the police, of course (didn’t demand the firing of whoever at the law firm failed to find the documents when they should have, apparently).
Rupert: “I wasn’t kept in the dark. I may have been too lax….”
Would Murdoch, having experienced the glare of inquiry, change tactics on his tabloids? Vague response meaning no.
Some Conservatives, notably Davies and Collins, are asking good questions.
Why did employees think they could break the law? No answer, just more trite contriteness. This is really the question. Those employees had editors who would have to have known not just their sources but their methods, and those editors had managing editors who should have been curious about how their investigators got so lucky. And, most important, their lawyers would have had to have been brought in on sufficiency of sourcing.
Another talking point is grinding down Gordon Brown. Murdoch: Brown’s wife and my wife Wendy struck up a friendship. Kids played together. Hope we can patch things up.
Whoa! Hearing interrupted as a young man reportedly lunges at Murdoch and is punched by
Wendy Murdoch [actually, she has retained her name. “Deng”, according to The Guardian] and arrested. What irony that a hearing on Murdoch turns into a tabloid event. Wonder if they hired the lunger. Nope, UK Uncut sponsored this foam pie. Bad move, I think, but I can understand why people are frustrated with this sort of dog-and-pony show.
We are about to complete the third hour of the Murdochs’ one hour of testimony.
Final questions by Conservative Louise Mensch say, basically, everyone does phone hacking (Daily Mirror editor has even boasted about it in a book), so could that have explained why News of the World thought it could do whatever it wanted? Giving Murdoch a wonderful opening to say that even if everyone does it, he won’t put up with it. Then asked whether he thought he should resign, he says, No, the people who betrayed me should pay for it. I’m the right man to clean it up. A chilling smile. As John Dean says in post-testimony comments, these people have no remorse.
[Update, 7/21: Mensch has been forced to back away from her claim that former Mirror editor Piers Morgan had bragged about hacking in his book, refusing to repeat it without the protection of parliamentary privilege (CNN footage here is pretty dispositive). The Guardian calls Mensch’s questioning as “antics.”]
The story the media will carry will be, as the Guardian blog makes clear in its summary, Poor Rupert Attacked!”
Coda: I couldn’t stand to watch Rebekah Brooks testify. She’s innocence itself. Louise Mensch again ran interference, dragging in Piers Anthony of CNN, who will very soon I predict find himself unemployed and the rest of the tabloids. Operation Motorman, which exposed the seamy underside of tabloid journalism and led to major reforms of British law, was all so long ago, Brooks implies. And I never knew about any private investigators except to unearth the locations of pedophiles to force the British government to pass Sarah’s Law. A worthy effort until one realizes it has had essentially no practical effects to protect children, but did serve to sell a lot of newspapers.
They are all without remorse. If they go to jail, they’ll be exclaiming over how unfair it all is.
Helene Mulholland and Matthew Taylor, The Guardian:
David Cameron’s chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, stopped Scotland Yard briefing the prime minister on the phone-hacking scandal in September 2010, a senior police officer has told a panel of MPs.
John Yates, the Met assistant commissioner who was in charge of the review of evidence into phone hacking in 2009 and who quit on Monday, told MPs that Cameron’s chief of staff told him it was not appropriate for him to brief the prime minister on the hacking investigation, adding: “And I’d be grateful if it wasn’t raised”.
One question answered: Sir Paul Stephenson, ex-Scotland Yard, said the owner of the luxury spa (Champneys) where he was given free lodging while recovering from surgery, was a family friend, and that he didn’t know that Wallis had a business relationship with Champneys until later. It’s still incomprehensible to me why he thought that a free gift of lodging amounting to thousands of dollars and paid to the top police official of Scotland Yard could not be regarded as improper.
I think the key issue is the e-mails belatedly turned over by Harbottle and Lewis, the law firm. How that happened is critical to understanding what happened. And if the lawyers find themselves under legal culpability, they will find a way to tell their side of the story. ”
Will Pitt watched the show on FOX. You can get his take here.
News Corp directors, perhaps worried about their own legal liability, have hired their own lawyers. These directors include the former president of Goldman Sachs, former CEO of British Air, and and the former PM of Spain. Also, the former director of public prosecutions, Lord McDonald, reportedly told the Home Affairs Committee that News of the World e-mails showed “blindingly obvious” evidence of corruption in paying police.
A point that should be mentioned is that the Murdochs not only paid off hacking victims. They are (IMO) currently paying off former employees by firing them or letting them resign, but promising jobs or remuneration. In Rebekah Brooks testimony, she repeatedly referred to “our” and “we” as if she was still employed by News Corp. She corrected herself once, but not in one notable instance.