Murdoch admits 'cover-up' at News of the World
LONDON: Rupert Murdoch admitted Wednesday there was a "cover-up" over phone hacking at Britain's News of the Worldtabloid but tried to shift the blame away from himself and senior executives at his media empire.
The tycoon told an official inquiry in Britain he had "failed" by not ordering an internal investigation sooner, but insisted that staff at the now-defunct paper kept top bosses at US-based News Corp in the dark.
"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 and I regret that," he said in his second day of evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.
"I think the senior executives were all... misinformed and all shielded from anything that was going on there and I do blame one or two people for that whom I shouldn't name because for all I know they may be arrested yet."
The News of the World's royal editor and a private investigator were jailed in 2007 for phone hacking but the industrial scale of the practice at the paper did not emerge until a new police probe was launched in January 2011.
Pressed by the senior judge leading the inquiry, Brian Leveson, about why he did not take further action over allegations against one of his biggest-selling newspapers, Murdoch added: "I also have to say that I failed."
The scandal fully erupted in July last year when it emerged the News of the World had hacked the mobile phone voicemail messages of Milly Dowler, a murdered British schoolgirl, sparking public outrage.
Murdoch shut the Sunday tabloid when advertisers boycotted it and Prime Minister David Cameron set up the Leveson Inquiry to probe the ethics of the press and its relations with politicians and police.
Asked on Thursday where the cover-up originated, the 81-year-old tycoon said it was "from within the News of the World."
"There were one or two very strong characters there who I think had been there many, many, many years and were friends of the journalists," he said.
"The person I'm thinking of was a friend of the journalists, a drinking pal and a clever lawyer... this person forbade people to go and report to Mrs Brooks or to James."
Former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks resigned as chief executive of Murdoch's British newspaper wing when the hacking scandal erupted in July last year, while Murdoch's son James was chairman.
Murdoch further denied that he had ever discussed News Corp's bid for full control of British satellite broadcaster BSkyB with British culture minister Jeremy Hunt.
Hunt's special adviser, Adam Smith, resigned on Wednesday over claims that he leaked details to a News Corp lobbyist about the government's view of its takeover attempt.
Murdoch abandoned the BSkyB bid when the hacking scandal blew up.
In the first day of his long-awaited testimony on Wednesday, the Australian-born Murdoch denied that he had exerted a decades-long stranglehold over British politics, saying: "I've never asked a prime minister for anything."
He also denied discussing the controversial BSkyB deal with Cameron.
Murdoch still owns The Sun – Britain's biggest-selling newspaper – The Times and Sunday Times in Britain and the Wall Street Journal and New York Post in the United States.
News Corp has paid out millions of pounds in compensation to hacking victims and more than 40 people have been arrested over hacking and alleged bribery of public officials by staff at the News of the World and The Sun.