British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed regret about hiring former News of the World editor Andy Coulson and News Corp. finally stopped paying the legal fees of Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator imprisoned in 2007 for hacking phones, in a day of relative repose for the scandal that has enveloped News Corp. and Scotland Yard the past few weeks.
Cameron issued a statement promising to clean up the scandal on Wednesday, and then faced questions from 136 MPs in Parliament. When Cameron touched on Coulson, his former director of communications, he struck his most contrite tone yet.
Cameron has been loath to admit hiring the former News of the World editor was a mistake or that he ignored those advising him against it. On Wednesday, now in possession of all the facts, he said he regretted the hire. He also said he would issue a “profound apology” if it turns out Coulson lied when he denied knowing about any phone hacking.
While Cameron may have begun digging himself out of a ditch on the subject of Coulson, the opposite could be true when it comes to Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, the British publishing arm of News Corp.
Brooks, who was arrested on Sunday in connection with the hacking scandal, told a Parliamentary Select Committee Tuesday that she and Cameron, admittedly close friends, had only every had “appropriate” conversations. Using the same term, Cameron restated that defense but would not close the door on rumors that he discussed business with Brooks.
When asked whether he discussed News Corp.’s efforts to buy the remaining 61 percent of British broadcaster BSkyB, Cameron refused to deny it. He reiterated that his conversations with Brooks were always appropriate.
While Wednesday marked Cameron’s turn in front of the MPs — the Murdochs appeared Tuesday – News Corp. still found its own way into the news. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism published its weekly release on news coverage in the U.S., and the hacking scandal took second place to the economy.
That is probably why on a slower day News Corp. was still found guilty of one past impropriety while halting an ongoing one.
A parliamentary committee found that News International tried to interfere with a Scotland Yard investigation of phone hacking in 2005 and 2006, a period in which Coulson was still News of the World’s editor.
News Corp. decision to finally stop paying Mulcaire's legal fees comes a day after James Murdoch expressed surprise and anger at the thought that he was still on the company's payroll.