Photo: Fox News Channel
Rupert Murdoch, his son James, and former top exec (and ‘favoured daughter’) Rebekah Brooks are set to testify in front of a British Parliamentary committee this morning.The Murdochs and Brooks will answer questions regarding what they did and didn’t know about the phone-hacking that took place at a number of Murdoch-owned papers (but primarily News of the World).
On Friday Brooks, former NOTW editor during much of the alleged phone-hacking, resigned and on Sunday she was arrested. Andy Coulson, the NOTW editor that followed Brooks and later became Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications aide, was arrested earlier this year.
The scandal, which erupted less than two weeks ago when it was revealed NOTW had hacked into the voicemail of a murdered girl leading her parents to believe she may be alive, has rocked Britain, is threatening David Cameron’s prime ministership, and may end up taking Murdoch’s entire News Corp empire down.
We are live-blogging the hearing below. Refresh and scroll down for updates.
9:31am | All the cable channels are covering the hearings.
On Fox News their UK correspondent say that the onus is as much on the committee to prove this isn’t a witchhunt or show trial as it is on the Murdochs to prove they were not complicit.
9:35am | And here we go
James Murdoch asks if he can make a statement and is told he can do so at the end. There appear to be protesters in the room who are asked to leave.
Daily Mirror editor RT @Kevin_Maguire: Rupert Murdoch looked relaxed going into the Commons hearing. His son James, however, was bricking it.
The committee thanks the Murdochs for “making themselves available.” Then asks them to explain why they said they had misled parliament previously.
James says he first wants to say ” how sorry I am and how sorry we are to the victims…it’s a matter of great regret, my father’s, mine, and everyone at News Corp’s. It’s our determination to put things right.”
9:40am | James explaining mis-statements.
James is saying that after their last testimony in 2009 new evidence made itself available. James: “When I made that statement about not being in possession of those facts it’s because those facts were still in the future.”
Chairman now asking why they were previously told their had been a thorough investigation by people such as Les Hinton. “Were they lying?”
James says the company relied on the police investigation and their assurances it was thorough and outside legal advice which came to the same conclusion. There wasn’t reason to believe “those matters weren’t settled.”
Chairman: So it’s your opinion they felt they knew the facts then.
James says he doesn’t have “direct knowledge of what [Hinton etc.] knew at that time.” But what he saw suggested it was closed.
9:46am | James is doing all the talking.
Gabriel Sherman: Testimony consistent w/ James’ personality. He was always the robotic one in the family, w/ coiled aggression. Lachlan the easy going one.
9:48am | Rupert speaks!
Committee asks Murdoch if he will acknowledge he was misled.
Yes. Nor does he know who lied to him. No.
Committee wants to know why Murdoch didn’t investigate Brooks claim in 2003 that they had paid police for info. Rupert deflects.
“NOTW is 1% of company and we are a “Proud and great and ethical distinguished people.” Slams desk!
Wendi Murdoch is sitting directly behind Rupe. She has been AWOL at her various film premieres for the last two weeks.
9:52am | Rupert pleading ignorance
Saying he knew nothing about blackmail charge against NOTW reporter despite the press attention it received at the time. Committee says “is that because they thought you wouldn’t think anything of it?”
Rupert is STONEWALLING the committee.
@gabrielsherman Striking visuals unfolding here. Rupert really seems to have aged. He’s having difficulty hearing committee members.
Michael Wolff noted the other day on Twitter that Murdoch wears a hearing aide but doesn’t like to do so in public.
9:55am | James interrupts
Says he can address these questions in some detail. Committee says they “will come back to you Mr (James) Murdoch but it’s your father who’s responsible to the (corporation).”
Rupert is STRUGGLING to answer these questions about who informed him of findings. James interrupts to confirm who the lead legal officers of News Corp are.
“I will come back to you Mr (james) Murdoch but it’s your father who’s responsible to the (corporation).”
10:00am | Is Rupert playing ignorant is he really that old?
Hard to tell. But one imagines at least part of this is Rupert playing the part of the aloof, unknowing CEO.
Michael Hastings: “Every story I’ve ever heard from journos who work for him indicate he is/was intimately involved in the types of details he can’t remember.”
Committee: “It’s revealing in itself what [Rupert] doesn’t know and what executives choose not to tell him.”
Committee: Company knew in April there was phone-hacking and no one was fired. Rupert: Up to police and we cooperated entirely.
James interrupts: Many of individuals implicated had already left the building at this time.
10:04am | Rupert says attempting to keep NOTW staffers employed
Pause…if they weren’t involved.
Committee: Did you close down NOTW because of the criminality.
Rupert: Yes. We were ashamed and had broken the trust of our readers.
10:05am | What about those private investigators
Watson: “We you aware of other forms of illicit surveillance” Rupert Murdoch: “Many use private investigators legally”
10:07am | What door do you use at 10 Downing?
The back door! James interrupts “respectfully” to say that his father would have no knowledge of the arrangements of his entry or exit.
Rupert: Only conversations I remember having with Mr. Blair were about Europe.
Rupe says his paper lost 200,000 circ. when he switched support from Thatcher’s Conservatives to labour
10:09am | What about allegations of 9/11?
Rupert, suddenly alert and fierce: “No evidence of that at all. We would treat it the same way as it was treated here.” He’d launch an investigation.
10:11am | BSkyB
James Murdoch: “The removal of the proposal to make offer (for BSkyB) is a reflection of our priority to move forward” “What happened at the #NotW was wrong”
10:13am | Mr. Murdoch are you responsible for this fiasco?
“Who is responsible?”
“The people I trusted. And the people they trusted. I would trust Les Hinton with my life.”
10:15am | James is in control.
Rupert’s demeanor is one of a doddering out of touch old man. James, on the other hand, who so far has taken the brunt of the criticism with regards to this scandal, appears entirely in control and willing to work with the committee.
Can you confirm or deny that News Corp is investigated by the serious fraud office?
James Murdoch: “I have no knowledge of that.”
10:17am | Where is Rebekah Brooks?
She is not present with the Murdochs. Perhaps testifying later and separately?
10:19am | Why did they settle voicemail cases out of court?
Short version: They were told they would lose the cases.
James says he doesn’t know the total amount of out of court settlement/payments News Corp has made. Nor does he know how big the payment would have to be for Brooks etc to require his OK.
But notes that it’s customary around the world to settle out of court instead of going through the lengthy and risky process of a trial.
10:24am | Who is James?
Steve Krakauer: For those wondering, James Murdoch went to HS in NYC (Horace Mann), and attended Harvard (before dropping out). Born in London, lived in HK.
10:26am | From the peanut gallery
“@RyanLizza: Watching this hearing, I finally understand Murdoch paying $500 million for Myspace.”
10:27am | Understatement.
“I am sure there are headlines that give offence…but they are not intentional.” Rupert smiles.
10:29am | Is this really Rupe?
Brian Stelter: “BBC editor Nick Robinson files a blog post from the hearing room: “It is hard to equate the man sitting a few feet away from me…”…with the global media mogul feared by political leaders throughout my adult lifetime.” Post: bbc.in/nE36yD”
10:30am | Rupert and James talking through eachother.
James details lengths News Corp has gone to set up ethics committee.
Rupert says how strongly he feels that a press is important to keeping the country strong.
10:33am | Rupert getting in the groove
Peter Kafka: “Rupert warming up. More confident.”
Or maybe just getting irritated with James’ acquiescing, nit-picking.
10:34am | Hindsight
James says he would have contacted police sooner if he could go back in time, and admitting liability to civil plaintiffs sooner.
James said the outside distinguished legal advice he got was to settle the phone hacking cases. And that at the time it was considered that these things had happened in the past and there were no more facts to be discovered.
10:41am | Do you have a question?
Are you familiar with the term ‘willful blindness.’
James: Mr. Sanders, can you elaborate.
Mr Sanders: It is a legal term that came up during the Enron case meaning if there was information you should have known you are liable.
James: Mr Sanders did you have a question?….Not aware of “willful blindness.”
Rupe: We were not ever guilty of that!
10:43am | “We were advised to tell the truth.”
James on legal advice they received ahead of today’s hearing.
10:44am | How often do you speak to your editors?
Rupert: “If there is an editor I am most in touch with it’s the WSJ because we are in the same building. NOTW I lost sight of, maybe because it was so small in the general frame of our company.”
Rupert says he wouldn’t have been told a million dollar pay-off. Smiling.
Piers Morgan on Twitter: “Rupert called me every week for 18ms on News of the World – rarely asked about anything but what stories we had that week. #Murdoch”
10:50am | Did News Corp pay legal fees of employees convicted of criminal behaviour?
Yes. James Murdoch was stunned to find out that some legal fees had been paid. But seems less clear on who approved it.
Rupert says it COULD have been Les Hinton who approved payments. “It would have been on the instructions of the chief legal officer.”
Every once in a while one gets the sense Rupert becomes tired of James’ long-winded answers and verbally swats him away like a fly.
10:58am | Why did Les Hinton resign.
Rupert: “Les Hinton resigned, sadly, last Friday saying I was in charge of the company during this period and I feel I must step down.”
Both Hinton and Brooks asked to resign.
Why didn’t Rupert accept Brooks’ resignation earlier?
Rupert: “I believed her and I trusted her and I do trust her. [Accepted resignation] because she insisted.”
Rupert says he can’t say how much their severance pay was because it’s confidential, but that it reflected the years of service and was substantial.
11:02am | More on Brooks.
Rupert says closing NOTW and the resignation of Rebekah Brooks are “totally unrelated.” Says he doesn’t remember saying Brooks was his “number one priority.”
Says that he left his flat and there were about 20 people standing there with microphones: “I don’t know what I said.”
Asked if he was misquoted, says he’s not saying that, but doesn’t remember what he said.
11:09am | Yes, we paid.
James says he was shocked News Corp was paying Mulcaire’s legal fees. But “I have to rest on counsel’s advice” but has no idea if it’s still going on.
Glen Mulcaire was in investigative reporter arrested for hacking voicemails.
Everyone on Twitter notes James should have been reading rival papers (cf Guardian) since they have been aware of this fact for quite some time.
Don Van Natta: Mulcaire has been silent for 4 .5 yrs. He is a defendant in 37 claims. Of course News Int is paying his legal fees.
11:18am | Leave it to the police..please.
James Murdoch: Detailed evidence we shared with police will be difficult to answer. I ask we let police undergo their important work.
[James] Murdoch has repeatedly deflected questions about what he knew, when, by highlighting assurance from the police that they had all the evidence.
Yesterday the Metropolitan police’s top two people resigned in connection with the phone-hacking case. And over the weekend the NYT ran a lengthy A-1 story about News Corp’s cozy relationship with Scotland yard.
11:31am | Who knew what at NOTW.
Mr Murdoch do you think it’s possible that the NOTW editors didn’t know what was going on?
Rupert: [Pause] “I can’t answer that because of the police investigation….How do I phrase this, it was my understanding that Mr Myler was appointed by Mr. Hinton to find out what the hell was going on. I can’t swear to the accuracy of it.”
11:35am | I wasn’t kept in the dark.
Mr Murdoch it sounds like you were kept in the dark on a series of serious issues.
Rupert: I wasn’t kept in the dark. It was a tiny part of our company.
The tininess of NOTW in relation to News Corp appears to be Rupert’s main defence. That they were assured by police there were no more facts to be had, appears to be James’.
11:40am | Do you regret giving James the BSkyB job?
The stuff of nightmares for a son!
Rupert says that when the job became available a number of people applied including James. And all went through committee.
11:46am | For Example.
Rupert says Singapore is a model for a transparent society ($1m ministerial salaries mean no temptation to cheat on expenses).
Round of laughter in room. James tries to interrupt.
11:49am | Family business.
Rupert, banging the table at regular intervals, brings up his late father “who was not rich but was a great journalist [and] expose[d] the scandal of Gallipoli” and whom he is very proud of. Says that he would be equally proud if his sons…and daughters would take over the business if they so chose.
11:51am | I wish those PM’s would leave me alone.
Noting he’d been asked to stop gesticulating, Rupert says former PM Gordon Brown “has great values. I’m sorry that we’ve come apart, I hope we will be able to come back together.”
Brown, whom Murdoch ditched for Cameron, came forward last week and said he had been hacked by Murdoch’s papers.
11:56am | Pie in the face!
SOMEONE JUST CHARGED RUPERT AND TRIED TO PUNCH HIM AND WENDI BITCH-SLAPPED HIM.
Apparently it was a plate of shaving cream.
12:18pm | WENDI.
OK, we are back. Wow. The room is now cleared (fear not, Wendi is still there) and the panel just apologized profusely to Rupert Murdoch who is now not wearing a jacket. However, panel assures that their questions will still be tough.
One of the MP’s compliments Wendi on her left hook (though I think she lead with her right).
James denies any knowledge of 9/11 hacking. Says if there is they will immediately investigate.
12:23pm | Piers.
Piers Morgan comes up. Committee notes that his book reveals how he used phone hacking to get “scoop of the year”
Piers tweets: “That MP just claimed I boasted in my book of using phone-hacking for a scoop. Complete nonsense. Just read the book….I’ve never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, or published any stories based on the hacking of a phone.”
Here is the full passage of the book the MP (and Guido Fawkes) is referring to out of context via the NYT liveblog:
Mr. Morgan wrote that, at one stage, he was puzzled as to how other newspapers had obtained confidential information about him. In one entry in the dairy, he wrote: “I am mystified. But someone suggested today that people might be listening to my mobile messages. Apparently, if you don’t change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and, if you don’t answer, tap in the standard four digit code to hear your messages. I’ll change mine just in case, but it makes me wonder how many public figures and celebrities are aware of this little trick.””I am mystified. But someone suggested today that people might be listening to my mobile messages. Apparently, if you don’t change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and, if you don’t answer, tap in the standard four digit code to hear your messages. I’ll change mine just in case, but it makes me wonder how many public figures and celebrities are aware of this little trick.”
12:23pm | Resign?.
Rupert says he has not considered resigning. “People I have trusted have let me down. They betrayed the company and me…and I am the best person to clean this up.”
12:35pm | This is the most humble day of my life.
Rupert reads statement he wanted to read at the onset of the hearing. He reiterates this is the most humble day of his life and says hacking and paying police is bad and that News Corp is made up of respectable individuals and this is not reflective of the company as a whole.
Up next: Rebekah Brooks.
12:45pm | Rebekah Brooks.
Rebekah is up now. (The hair: WOW).
She says she’d like to add her apologies to those of Rupert and James’. She notes that because she was arrested on Sunday she is accompanied by legal representation to make sure she doesn’t impede that investigation but she intends to answer as openly and freely as possible.
Photo: Fox News Channel
12:55pm | Brooks on private investigators.
Brooks says everyone on Fleet St. uses private investigator, specifically noting Guardian & Observer near top of list. Guardian editor @arusbridger: “Actually not on list at all.”
Asked if she has any regrets, Brooks says “Yes, of course, the fact Milly Dowler’s phone was accessed by someone at NOTW is abhorrent to me.”
Brooks says she has never knowingly sanctioned a police payoff and further that “I can say absolutely that the [Murdoch-owned] Sun is a clean ship and a good newsroom.”
Brooks says she understands why NOTW employees were upset the paper was shuttered and reiterates what she told them at the time that they would understand in a year why it had to be done…they had broken trust with the readers.
1:20pm | Coulson
Brooks says that when Andy Coulson left NOTW he had a deal that all his legal fees would be paid. Which suggests he knew he would be facing legal issues? Coulson went to work for now PM David Cameron after leaving NOTW despite warnings from other Conservatives that it was a bad idea.
1:38pm | Obama cuts in.
The cablers cut away to cover Obama’s hastily called presser regarding Debt Ceiling talks and Gang of Six.
2:17pm | The hearings go on.
Brooks says she had nothing to do with getting (an increasingly embattled) Cameron to hire Andy Coulson: I have a ‘wholly appropriate’ relationship with him.
Meanwhile, these hearings are entering hour 6 and thus far, not including the pie throwing recess, Fox has only cut out to (briefly) cover Obama’s presser. Not a single commercial. One imagines regular viewers not familiar with this very insidery media story are rather confused.
2:20pm | Type over me please.
And we’re done! Brooks requests that the committee invite her back when she is free of her legal obligations (in connection with this weekend’s arrest) so that she may speak more fully on the matter. The committee agrees.
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