So far the imploding scandal surrounding the shuttering of Rupert Murdoch‘s News of the World following new revelations in the phone-hacking scandal has remained mostly a British spectacle.
That soon may change.
When Murdoch took over the Wall St. Journal in 2007 he brought in trusted lieutenant Les Hinton and longtime News Corp employee and appointed him CEO of Dow Jones & Company. A position he currently holds.
Prior to taking over at the Dow Jones Hinton was head of News International — the embattled Rebekah Brooks is currently its CEO– and oversaw News of the World during the phone hacking scandal.
On two occasions he was called to give evidence to British Parliament, that the Guardian is reporting now appears to be misleading. It’s not clear whether this was what James Murdoch was referring to when he conceded in his statement on the closing of the paper that News Corp had been guilty of misleading parliament, but it does not bode well.
On 6 March 2007, while chairman of News International – and also chairman of the editors’ code committee that sets ethical guidelines for the British press – he appeared before the culture, media and sport subcommittee . He was asked what investigations had been carried out into the activities of Clive Goodman, the News of the World reporter who had hacked into the phones of the royal family and had by then been jailed for the offences.
Hinton replied by standing up for Andy Coulson, the News of the World editor who had resigned over the Goodman affair while denying any knowledge of it: “I believe absolutely that Andy did not have knowledge of what was going on.” On Friday Coulson was arrested on Friday in connection with the phone-hacking investigation.
Hinton was also asked by MPs whether he had “carried out a rigorous internal inquiry”, and whether he was “absolutely convinced that Clive Goodman was the only person who knew what was going on?” He replied: “Yes, we have, and I believe he was the only person.”
Two years later, on 15 September, he was called again before the subcommittee to explain his earlier comments after more detail about the scandal had been unearthed.
Once again, he insisted that a thorough investigation had taken place: “There was never any evidence delivered to me that suggested that the conduct of Clive Goodman spread beyond him … We went, I promise you, to extraordinary lengths within the News of the World.”
John Whittingdale, the chair of the subcommittee before which Hinton appeared, said that given the events of this week, Hinton’s assurances “now look increasingly unconvincing”. He added: “Les gave very clear assurances that he himself was not involved, and I have no reason to doubt that. But if he told us there had been a very thorough investigation I would have expected him to be apprised that there indeed had been a very thorough investigation.”
Next question. If the attention shifts to Hinton who goes down first: Rebekah Brooks or Hinton. And how long until Murdoch himself steps down in an effort to avoid losing his entire senior staff to an investigation that appears to only be getting started.
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