Murdoch to Parliament: ‘I’m the Best Man to Clear This Up’

In hearings interrupted after Wendi Murdoch hits a man who threw shaving cream at her husband, Rupert and James defend themselves

Rupert Murdoch told Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that he had no intention of resigning amid a phone-hacking scandal that is tarnishing his media empire.

"I am the best person to clear this up," he said.

Also see: Rebekah Brooks Goes to Parliament (Live Blog)

In what began contentiously but eventually settled into a pleasant if somewhat repetitive hearing the media mogul and his son James repeated basically the same themes: We are very sorry for what happened, it was wrong, and we had no idea it was going on in a company as large as News International.

"This is the most humble day of my career," Murdoch said in his closing statement.

Most surprising was an interruption toward the end of the hearing when a man shouting "Greed," hit Murdoch in the face with a paper plate loaded with shaving foam. Rupert's wife Wendi grabbed the plate and hit the assailant, and proceedings were disbanded for about 10 minutes.

Said one member of the committee: "Mr. Murdoch, your wife has a very good left hook."

Also read: Murdoch's Wife Hailed for Taking a Swing at His Attacker

Asked if he'd closed News of the World down because of criminality or for financial reasons, Rupert said, "We'd become ashamed of what had happened … we had broken our trust with our readers."

He and James insisted they were unaware in 2008, when the scandal first broke and was thought to be resolved, that there were larger issues of phone hacking at the paper. They said that they had no idea until recently.

And though Rupert said he regularly talked to editors of his papers about the news of the day, he said was never informed of payoffs. His editors, he said, "might say we have a great story of exposing X or Y," but the editor wouldn't tell Murdoch about a "million-pound payoff."

"Perhaps I lost sight because it (the News of the World) was so small in the general frame of our company."

"I'm not really in touch," he said. "If there is an editor that I'm really in touch with it's with the Wall Street Journal; we're in the same building."

Referring to allegations that the paper had been to cozy with Prime Minister David Cameron, Murdoch said the paper "never guaranteed anyone the support of our newspapers."

Murdoch refused to confirm reports that former News of the World head Les Hinton, and recently-resigned publisher of the Wall Street Journal, had been given a million-pound severance payoff, but did say:  "I can tell you, in the case of Mr. Hinton it would have been considerable," based on 52 years of service.

He also insisted that he trusted both Hinton and Brooks: "I don't think Mr. Hinton misled me for a moment."

Finally, he defended his newspapers, if not the tactics of phone hacking: "Investigation journalism … does lead to a more transparent society, and I believe we are a better society because of that, and we are an even more open society than the United States."

Here's our live blog of how the day went (in reverse chronology):

9:30 PT — Murdoch reads the statement he prepared. He apologized to victims of phone hacking, decried invasion of privacy and bribery and said that saying sorry is not enough. "Listening to voice mail is wrong. Paying police officers for information is wrong." Murdoch reiterated his desire to restore trust and again thanked the Dowlers for allowing him to apologize in person. Finally, he remarked the opportunities the country of England gave him.

9:28 PT — At the end of the hearing, the head of the committee said: "Mr. Murdoch, your wife has a very good left hook."

9:25 PT — The final question: Has Rupert considered resigning? Rupert: "No." Why Not? "The people I trusted, I am not saying how or at what level, let me down." They betrayed the company and it is for them to pay. Rupert says he is the best person to clean it up. Then Tom Watson jumps in for a final question about an e-mail that was evidence. James says he did not see it. Why would he pay a settlement then?

9:21 PT — The questioner used Piers Morgan to implicate other News Corp. properties in phone hacking. Also, did News of the World feel "inured" to using these practices? James directed focus.

9:15 PT — Aaaaand the hearing has resumed. In the break, one pundit said the Murdoch dynasty was dying before our eyes. Once resumed, the committee apologized or what happened and promise to find out how the man was able to get in. The MP resumes her questions and says it is "hard to believe two executives no one would describe as passive would have so little knowledge."

8:58 PT — Shocker! The proceedings have been suspended after a man, calling out "Greed!" threw a plastic plate with white foam on it at Rupert's face, and Rupert's wife Wendi rose up and struck him. The man was taken away by police. No word yet on whether meetings will be reconvened.

8:54 PT — As the last questioner was taking over, there was a "disturbance" in the room that interrupted the hearing. The camera has shifted away.

8:51 PT — Rupert cites his father's journalistic past as evidence of the importance of investigative journalism. That was exposing Gallipoli during World War I.

8:48 PT — When asked whether there is a culture problem in his organization, Rupert said, "We're a big company. Of course people try to please me…it's up to me to see through that."

8:47 PT — James says the codes of conduct at News Corp. are very clear. "Breaking the law is a very serious matter. People who are lawbreakers should be held to account." Rupert says there is no excuse for breaking the law, but one can protest it.

8:39 PT — Rupert says Hinton never misled him. "[Hinton] certainly did not know of anything there." The wife of the new questioner works for Edelman PR, which News Corp. hired.

8:37 PT — Rupert: "No one kept me in the dark. I may have been lax. Anything seen as a crisis comes to me." James said that there is a "difference between being kept in the dark and delegation." James does not say someone should have told him because people within the company were unaware. He did admit the company's denials were too strong.

8:35 PT — Rupert Murdoch keeps reminding everyone how big a company News Corp. is (and using it as the reason he did not know what was happening). James also suggests the scope of the company is why he knew so little.

8:32 PT — MP says it is still unclear who knew what at News of the World. Does Rupert find that to be a satisfactory state of affairs satisfactory? No he does not. As for Hinton, he hired Colin Myler as editor to find out "what the hell was going on" at the World.

8:30 PT — Not to shift anyone's attention, but liveblogs abound. This hearing is all over Twitter and most major news outlets. Perhaps the most attention this has gotten in the US to date.

8:26 PT — As this goes on, News Corp. stock prices continue to rise — up almost 5 percent on the day.

8:24 PT — James then declines to speak for Hinton. Hinton should not be expected to read hundreds of thousands of e-mails.

8:23 PT — James said that only in light of new evidence was it clear there was more in the reams of e-mails than they thought. He can't comment on the limited scope of the original investigation because he was not there at the time.

8:08 PT — James continues to seem incredulous when it comes to paying for Mulcaire and Goodman's legal fees. He said when he found out he thought, "Are we really? Are we doing this?" Rupert said he would like to stop paying costs, but that it depends on contracts.

8:06 PT — Both Murdochs refused to answer questions about severance packages for Brooks and Hinton. When asked if the payments required both Brooks and Hinton to be silent, James said it was "nothing that would stop or inhibit the executives from cooperating fully" with investigations. Rupert said the payment to Hinton would be "considerable" in light of his 52 years with News Corp.

7:59 PT — The MP targeted questions about Les Hinton and Rebekah Brooks at Rupert. Rupert said Hinton felt like he had to step down and that he finally accepted Brooks' resignation because she insisted, because she was "at a point of extreme anguish."

7:57 PT — About paying for Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire's legal fees, James says he was "very surprised" to find out the company had made "certain contributions" to legal fees.

7:56 PT — James Murdoch often tells the MPs their questions are good, but then does not answer them.

7:52 PT — The MP says the variance in payments "smells a bit" and seems shocked James has not heard of one of the most famous lawyers in England.

7:51 PT — Piers Morgan seems intent on defending Rupert Murdoch on Twitter. While the media world piles on, Morgan says Rupert "rarely asked about anything but what stories we had that week."

7:43 PT — "I'm not really in touch," said Rupert. He said he sparingly called the editor of the News of the World. The editor he has spent the most time with is the editor of the Wall Street Journal because they were in the same building. "To say I'm hands off is wrong. I work 10-12 hours a day and I can't tell you the multitude of issues I have to deal with every day. The News of the World, perhaps, I lost sight of, maybe because it was so small in the general frame of our company."

7: 42 PT — When asked about "willful blindness," a phrase from the Enron case, James said he does not know the phrase and Rupert seemed offended: "I have heard the phrase before and we were NEVER guilty of that."

7:36 PT — James said that after 2008 News Corp. should have immediately gone to the police and admitted liability to civil litigants. If he knew then what he knows now he said he "would have taken more action around that, and moved faster to get to the bottom of those allegations."

7:32 PT — Both James and Rupert said there had been no decision made on a Sunday tabloid, but declined to rule it out.

7:31 PT — Rupert speaks out about a free and competitive press saying that the company does benefit from having a competitive press and therefore a transparent society. While it is "sometimes very inconvenient," we are better and stronger for it.

7:30 PT — James says one of the lessons is about ethics. "We do need to think as a business as well as an industry in this country more forcefully and thoughtfully about our journalistic ethics, what codes of conduct should be not just for News International but for the industry as a whole, and what sort of governance should be around this whole area."

7:29 PT — James has largely taken over now. James said News Corp. "never guaranteed anyone the support of our newspapers." He said they supported the Labour Party and lost circulation but never exacted any promises from them for the support.

7:22 PT — A female questioner is now focusing on News Corp.'s settlements, particularly the one made to Gordon Taylor. James said it is "customary around the world to try to reach out of court settlements," and that in that case it was clear the company would have lost in court.

7:15 PT — Rupert denies responsibility, saying it rests with "the people I trusted to run it, and then maybe the people they trusted." He defended Les Hinton in some of his strongest words yet: "I've worked with Mr. Hinton for 52 years and I would trust him with my life."

7:14 PT — James, who continues to be as respectful and apologetic as possible, said, "not just have we apologized, but we have admitted liability."

7:11 PT — When asked about the FBI investigation into the hacking of 9/11 victims, Rupert said that his company has seen "no evidence of that at all, and as far as we know the FBI has not either. If we do, we'll treat it exactly the same way we did here…. I can't believe it happened with anyone in America."

7:10 PT — The focus temporarily shifted to Rupert's political connections. He was asked about going in the backdoor of 10 Downing Street after Mr. Cameron's election and Rupert said it was upon the prime minister's instructions. James again jumped in to say: "I don't think my father would have any awareness of arrangements for entering or leaving, respectfully."

7:07 PT — As for the closing of News of the World, Rupert said "we'd become ashamed of what had happened…we had broken our trust with our readers."

7:05 PT — Rupert said it was "not our job" to conduct a criminal investigation and that "when a company closes down, it is natural for people to lose their jobs."

7:01 PT — Tom Watson, the questioner, appears increasingly frustrated by James Murdoch's attempts to answer questions for his father. He just said, "It's revealing in itself what [Rupert] doesn't know and what his executives chose not to tell him."

6:57 PT — Rupert continues to deny knowledge, often trying to pass it off to James. Asked about when he found out that "criminality was endemic at News of the World," he said, "endemic is a very wide-ranging word," and that he became aware as it became apparent. He added that when he found out about Milly Dowler he was "absolutely shocked, appalled and ashamed."

6:51 PT — Rupert gets his first batch of questions and denies any knowledge. "I need to say something, and this is not as an excuse — maybe it's an explanation of my laxity," Murdoch said. "The News of the World is less than one percent of my company, I employ 50,000 people around the world who are proud and great and ethical people."

6:49 PT — James Murdoch seemed flustered for the first time when asked about whether Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton knew anything. After a few stammers, he said, "I have no knowledge. There is no evidence that I am aware of."

6:45 PT — James Murdoch said that the bulk of evidence did not come until the civil trials towards the end of 2010. He added that it is "a matter of deep frustration and real regret that the facts could not emerge, to my understanding, faster."

6:40 PT — The first question was for James Murdoch, asking him about a statement he made suggesting Parliament had been misled. In the middle of James' answer, Rupert Murdoch interrupts him and calls it the "most humbling day of my life."

6:39 PT — The BBC is broadcasting the testimony live on its website. Here is the link.

6:36 PT — James Murdoch requested that he be able to make an opening statement but committee chair John Whittingdale said the committee had enough questions to cover all of the subjects. If Murdoch wishes, he or his son may make the statement at the end.

6:30 PT — CNN, Current and MSNBC have started live coverage. Still waiting on Fox. CNN has declared it one of the most important days in the history of the British Parliament and the media. Keith Olbermann is interviewing John Dean, former White House Counsel to Richard Nixon.

6:15 PT — The testimony is slated to begin at 6:30 with CNN, Fox Business and Current TV covering it live. (MSNBC will be as well, but not non-stop.) CNN already started its coverage but returned to normal news, while neither Fox Business nor Current have started their broadcasts.