News Corp. CEO declines comment at Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley as phone-hacking scandal escalates
The British Metropolitan police have informed Andy Coulson, former media adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron, that he will be arrested Friday in connection with the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.
Coulson (left), who resigned as Cameron's director of commuications in January, was contacted by detectives on Thursday and told to appear for formal questioning on Friday.
The scandal dominated headlines in the United Kingdom and United States on Thursday and left Murdoch – who was at a mogul's retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho – avoiding journalists.
James Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp. Europe and Asia, said News of the World will close Sunday after 168 years in operation.
"The good things the News of the World does … have been sullied by behaviour that was wrong," Murdoch, son of News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, said in a statement. "If recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company."
Also read: James Murdoch's Statement in Full
The action was an extraordinary admission of the damage the tabloid has caused with allegations that journalists have hacked the phones of everyone from juvenile victims of terrorism to the royal family, as well as suspected corruption of the police.
News Corp. boss Murdoch kept a low profile at the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley on Thursday as the scandal deepened, declining further comment on the matter. While a throng of media swarmed around him, the mogul avoided questions and said that he had nothing more to add to a statement. he "mostly kept his head down and swiftly moved through the pack, only repeating that he had nothing more to add to his statement."
Cameron's decision to hire Coulson was always viewed as risky because the former News of the World editor had to resign his post at the tabloid in 2007 after early developments emerged in the News Corp. hacking scandal. Coulson resigned the day his former royal editor, Clive Goodman, was imprisioned.
Coulson said he resigned from his post in Cameron's administration because the allegations inhibited him from performing his job. That did not mean he admitted to any impropriety.
Coulson consistently asserted his own personal innocence, and both Cameron and News Corp. supported him — until this week.
With the scandal escalating to another level, both Cameron and News Corp. have stopped defending Coulson. In fact, News International has begun to shift attention to the misdeeds while Coulson was editor, ostensibly to protect his predecessor (and News International chief executive) Rebekah Brooks.
The Guardian is reporting that another former senior journalist form the World will be arrested soon.
When new accusations emerged Wednesday, the British government announced it would launch an inquiry and rumors spread that up to five journalists and executives would be arrested.
In response, Rupert Murdoch denounced the actions of his reporters as "deplorable and unacceptable," but insisted the malfeasance was limited in scope. Murdoch, who is at an annual moguls' retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho, did not comment on Thursday's closure decision.
The senior Murdoch also continued to defend Rebekah Brooks (pictured with the CEO above), former editor of World and chief executive of News International, who has faced repeated calls for her to resign. With James Murdoch's statement today, Brooks remains protected, but it was the first time either Murdoch admitted the problems extended beyond specific reporters and investigators.
The allegations date back several years, and one even led to the imprisonment of a News of the World reporter. However, each time new charges emerged, News Corp. denied any connections with high-level editors.
Several of those editors have taken prominent positions in the British government, including Andy Coulson. Coulson, like Brooks, served as editor of the World during a period marred by allegations, and the continuation of the scandal led to his resignation as media adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron in January.
The scandal re-erupted in the past week because of the revelation on Wednesday that private investigators hired by the paper may have tapped the phones not just of politicians and celebrites — which had long been alleged — but also the phones of family members of three schoolgirls who were among the 52 victims of the 2005 suicide attacks on the London subway system.
During a heated debate on the issue at Parliament, Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the paper and called for a wide-scale investigation into the scandal.
"We are no longer talking here about politicians and celebrities," said Cameron. "We are talking about murder victims, potentially terrorist victims, having their phones hacked into. It is absolutely disgusting."
NewsCorp chief Rupert Murdoch issued a statement Wednesday calling the alleged hacking "deplorable and unacceptable," and stated NewsCorp's full cooperation with any police investigation. Murdoch was at the annual mogul retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho this week when the scandal re-erupted.
However, he also expressed support for Rebekah Brooks (pictured above with Murdoch), the head of NewsCorp subsidiary News International, who has been taking fire to step down over the scandal. She claims to have no knowledge of the widespread hacking.
The scandal has grown to include many familiar names, such as the princes Harry and William, the actors Jude Law, Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan, and the soccer star Wayne Rooney. (See the Guardian's compelling full list of the many rumored and identified hacking victims.)
In addition to the report that terrorism victims' families have been targeted by the tabloid, there is mounting evidence that suggests the News of the World may have paid Scotland Yard police officers a sum of roughly 100,000 pounds, possibly to silence the investigation.