'Most humble day of my life', Murdoch tells UK lawmakers

19th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch told British lawmakers "this is the most humble day of my life" at the start of a parliamentary hearing Tuesday over the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

But he refused to accept ultimate responsibility for what one lawmaker described as the hacking "fiasco" which led to the closure this month of the 168-year-old tabloid, formerly Britain's biggest selling weekly.

Kicking off the session, his son James Murdoch, chief executive of News Corp's Europe and Asia operation, said: "I would like to say just how sorry I am and how sorry we are, to particularly the victims of illegal voicemail interceptions, and to their families.

"It's a matter of great regret of mine, my father's and everyone at News Corporation.

"These actions do not live up to the standards that our company aspires to everywhere around the world and it is our determination to both put things right, make sure these things don't happen again and to be the company that I know we have always aspired to be."

Despite the apologies, Murdoch senior would not go as far as to accept ultimate responsibility for the scandal.

Asked by Labour lawmaker Jim Sheridan: "Do you accept that ultimately you are responsible for this whole fiasco?", Murdoch tersely replied: "No".

The media mogul added there was "no evidence" at all that the voicemails of 9/11 victims had been hacked into, claims that have prompted the FBI to launch a probe in the United States.

"We have seen no evidence of that at all and as far as we know the FBI haven't either," Murdoch said.

James Murdoch said that the company took swift action when it became aware of fresh phone-hacking evidence following a series of civil actions in 2010.

"Subsequent to our discovery of that information in one of these civil trials at the end of 2010, which I believe was the Sienna Miller case, the company immediately went to look at additional records around the individual involved, the company alerted the police and restarted, on that basis, the investigation that is now under way," he said.

Labour party lawmaker Tom Watson asked Rupert Murdoch whether he had been misled by senior employees, to which Murdoch replied: "Clearly".

The 80-year-old retorted: "The News of the World is less than one percent of our company. I employ 53,000 people around the world who are proud and great and ethical and distinguished people, professionals in their work.

"I'm spread watching and appointing people whom I trust to run those divisions."

He said he was "absolutely shocked, appalled and ashamed when I heard about the Milly Dowler case two weeks ago," referring to the case of a murdered teenager whose phone was allegedly hacked by the News of the World.

James Murdoch told the committee News International, News Corp.'s British newspaper wing, currently had no plans to launch a new Sunday tabloid to replace News of the World, despite speculation that a new paper was being planned.

"There is no decision on that," he told lawmakers. "There are no immediate plans for that."

© 2011 AFP

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