Live-Blogging of Murdoch Testimony Before Parliament
Below is the transcript of The National Memo’s live-blogging of News Corp testimony delivered before Parliament on July 19, 2011. Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corp; his son, James Murdoch; and Rebekah Brooks, a top lieutenant who resigned from her post last week, spoke before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
Matt Taylor: Sorry for the late start folks; Murdoch and son have been testifying for a few minutes now.
Avi Zenilman: This is a live-blog of the British Parliament’s interrogation of Rupert Murdoch.
Matt Taylor: Murdoch and son play the humble card, deeply apologetic.
Matt Taylor: Rupert says he was “clearly” lied to about phone hacking by subordinates.
Matt Taylor: He plays the corporate titan card; I have 53,000 employees, can’t be bothered to keep tabs on everything.
Matt Taylor: The younger Murdoch wants to testify in favor of his father but Parliament wants to hear from the elder Murdoch.
Matt Taylor: Being questioned now about trading favors for political endorsements, which Murdoch has been found essentially guilty of in the past.
Matt Taylor: MP’s are incredulous at the extent to which James has apparently shielded Rupert from the goings-on with the scandal for years.
Matt Taylor: Murdoch gets most upset when asked whether 9/11 victims have been hacked; doesn’t seem to realize Brits being hacked is just as big a deal when in front of the British Parliament.
Matt Taylor: “We have apologized profusely and unreservedly” says James.
Matt Taylor: “We are a company that takes transparency very seriously’ says the younger Murdoch. Nice.
Matt Taylor: Decision to close The News of the World was because Rupert Murdoch was “ashamed,” no commercial reasons, he says.
Matt Taylor: Lots of pleas of ignorance; the strategy here seems to be to bury the MPs in corporate language about transparency, audits, and compartmentalization of responsibility.
Matt Taylor: Every employee at News Corps receives an ethical code of conduct, they say. There are “workshops” conducted around the world to keep things clean.
JCONASON: James M: Need to rethink “codes of conduct.” Five decades late but hey! As he says “it’s a good thing.” Besides, they’re being “pro-active.” [via Twitter]
Avi Zenilman: Once again — welcome readers! This is National Memo’s live-blog of the Murdoch hearings, currently happening on a television near you. To join in the conversation via twitter, add the hashtag #murdochnm and your comments will go up!
Matt Taylor: Recap: Rupert Murdoch began hearing by calling this “the most humble day of my life.”
Matt Taylor: MP Sanders asks about “willful blindness,” knowledge you could and should have had but chose not to have; compares News Corps to Enron. James Murdoch gets testy, ducks.
Matt Taylor: Now being quizzed about what kind of media prep they did; first time testifying like this for both Murdochs (somehow).
Matt Taylor: Rupert says he’s “not really in touch” with his editors at his various newspapers, The Wall Street Journal excepted.
Avi Zenilman: That’s actually not true (that he’s “not in touch” with everyone except for The Journal). I worked at The Daily until March of this year, and he was famously in touch with the stories we published.
Matt Taylor: Intense grilling about who made payments and when as relates to the initial phone hacking incidents, and how the Murdochs could possibly not have authorized them.
Matt Taylor: To be clear: these are payments to the journalists jailed in previous years for phone hacking.
Matt Taylor: Rupert Murdoch says he still trusts Rebekah Brooks.
Matt Taylor: MP says News of the World was “offered up” as an alternative to try to save Rebekah Brooks’ job at News Corps; what about all the lost jobs?
Avi Zenilman: Matt, describe a little for people at work who can’t watch TV how the Murdochs are responding–what’s the tone of their interrogation, how is their body language different? What kind of vibe are they giving off?
Matt Taylor: James promises to try to “find reemployment” for laid off workers.
Matt Taylor: The Murdochs’ body language has been relatively confident, if also humble and a bit stiff; they have mostly been very careful to remain polite and helpful, but the younger Murdoch nearly lost it when News Corp was compared to Enron.
Matt Taylor: “I don’t want to be legalistic and I’m not a lawyer,” offers up James.
Avi Zenilman: He says he doesn’t want to be “legalistic” right before he go on a long legalistic shpiel.
Matt Taylor: James keeps insisting he can’t go into details in order to avoid usurping police investigation. Good move, lecturing MPs on law and order.
Matt Taylor: Younger Murdoch admits to reading incriminating emails; Rupert dodges again via reference to “police inquiries.”
Matt Taylor: Asked if it was “remotely possible” editors knew about phone hacking, Rupert Murdoch says he doesn’t know but that Les Hilton appointed News of the World’s last editor to find our “what the hell” was going on.
Avi Zenilman: James Murdoch to parliament: “I understand completely your frustration!”
Matt Taylor: Rupert Murdoch insists he wasn’t “kept in dark”–his son says there’s a difference between being kept in dark and delegating responsibility.
Matt Taylor: MP asks about nepotism; does Rupert regret elevating his son, perhaps beyond his ability?
Matt Taylor: most open and clear society in world is Sinagpore, Rupert says
It’s the “cleanest” because everyone makes lots of money, or something.
Matt Taylor: He’s doing lots of banging of his hand on the table for emphasis.
Matt Taylor: Rupert asked whether there’s a “cultural” problem in organization; do people withhold undesired information in order to curry favor?
Matt Taylor: No one wants to deliver bad news to Angry Old Rupert.
Matt Taylor: Does Rupert think there’s pressure within the organization to break the law for scoops? Rupert says “that’s completely wrong, there’s no excuse for breaking law” (bangs fist on table for 300th time).
Matt Taylor: Rupert gets personal: I was brought up by a father who was not rich but a “great journalist.”
Matt Taylor: Last questioner up now.
Matt Taylor: Chaos has broken out, hearing suspended; did someone pass out?
Matt Taylor: Rupert Murdoch was attacked. Hearing is suspended.
Matt Taylor: The attacker is unidentified.
Matt Taylor: It may have been more of a lunge than anything else; someone made a move on Rupert, updates when they become available.
Matt Taylor: Hearing should return in 10 minutes.
Matt Taylor: It was a pie/foam/cream attempt.
Matt Taylor: Wife Wendi was there to protect him.
Matt Taylor: Apparently the man in question was comedian Jonnie Marbles. http://tpm.ly/rohVlp
Matt Taylor: Rupert Murdoch says there’s no evidence at all of 9/11 victim hacking.
Matt Taylor: Some reports say Rupert Murdoch was hit “squarely in face” with pie; he has removed jacket at this point.
Matt Taylor: Hearing has resumed.
Matt Taylor: Murdochs are asking if they are conducting a global review of their conduct.
Matt Taylor: James refers back to their “Code of conduct” though he doesn’t even attempt to explain how it failed so badly in phone hacking scandal, what’s changed since then.
Matt Taylor: Action shot of Wendi Murdoch stepping in to defend her husband. http://abcnews.go.com/images/International/abc_murdoch_fight_nt_110719_main.jpg
Matt Taylor: Rebekah Brooks is testifying now; former CEO of News International , one-time editor of News of the World
Matt Taylor: She calls “what happened at News of the World pretty horrific.” She claims she didn’t see verifiable evidence of phone hacking until 2010
Matt Taylor: Brooks conedes that she was “aware that we used” private dicks in getting stories.
Matt Taylor: As her superiors did, Brooks is denying knowledge of most of the hiring and payment decisions that were made. Where is the mid level manager who apparently masterminded this whole process?!
Sam Knowles: Piers Morgan comes under fire for admissions in his book.
Avi Zenilman: Sam Knowles has taken over for Matt Taylor and will be live-blogging the rest of Rebekah Brooks’s testimony.
Sam Knowles: Brooks insists that stories start with reporters, avoiding specific questions about when she was involved in the Milly Dowler investigation.
Sam Knowles: At the time the Dowler story was breaking, Brooks claims that she believed News of the World was acting appropriately, “respecting the privacy of the families”—a claim she now says will sound ridiculous. Her questioner agrees with this assessment.
Sam Knowles: When does Brooks say she first heard the allegation that News of the World had hacked Dowler’s phone? Two weeks ago, with the rest of us.
Sam Knowles: “I think it seems incredible that you, as the editor, were unaware of such fundamental issues,” an MP asks.
Sam Knowles: “I really, really do want to understand what happened,” Brooks says, unconvincingly.
Sam Knowles: Brooks reminds the committee that her phone was also hacked by reporters.
Sam Knowles: Brooks evades questions about whether or not she was on vacation at the time of the phone hacking, as News Corp officials had previously stated.
Sam Knowles: Did Brooks ask reporters on the Dowler story how they received their information? She will not say, but lists the levels of management that would have been involved in confirming the veracity of their claims.
Sam Knowles: Brooks asks MP to share the source of an allegation regarding police informants. Room shares a laugh at the expense of The Evening Standard.
Sam Knowles: Brooks: “I’ve never been horseriding with the Prime Minister.”
Sam Knowles: Brooks has completed her testimony for the day, asking the committee to invite her back at a later date.
Sam Knowles: This concludes The National Memo’s live-blogging of the Murdochs’ and Brooks’s testimony before Parliament. Be sure to check our website for complete coverage of the News Corp phone-hacking scandal.
Sam Knowles: Thanks for joining us!