EMBATTLED media tycoon Rupert Murdoch survived an attack by foam pie yesterday as he defiantly told MPs he was not to blame for wrongdoing at the News of the World.
After being hauled before MPs to give evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee on what he described as the “most humble day of my life”, he insisted he was the “best person to clear this up”. His News Corporation media empire is reeling from police inquiries into phone hacking and illegal payments to police at the closed Sunday newspaper.
The 80-year-old media mogul blamed people he trusted for letting him down during a dramatic appearance before a committee of MPs which was temporarily halted when he was attacked with the plate of foam in an extraordinary incident by a man who evaded security.
Stunned MPs watched as Mr Murdoch’s third wife Wendi Deng sprang to his defence and slapped the assailant, who was arrested and taken away by police. After the room was emptied Mr Murdoch took off his jacket and the session resumed in some levity, one of Mr Murdoch’s most vociferous critics Tom Watson MP telling him: “Your wife has a very good left hook.”
The incident happened towards the end of a hearing lasting more than two hours in which Mr Murdoch and his son James, News Corporation’s deputy chief operating officer, repeatedly apologised for the wrongdoing which led them to close down the News of the World.
But they left many questions remaining, not least after revealing that they continued paying the legal fees of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire after he was jailed for phone hacking – and may still be doing so.
On a dramatic day at Westminster, Lord MacDonald, former Director of Public Prosecutions, revealed that it took him just five minutes to conclude that a file of e-mails which he reviewed for News Corporation contained “evidence of serious criminal offences” and should be handed to police.
Senior police officers Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates defended their integrity after being forced to quit in the scandal but there were more questions over the links between the Metropolitan Police and News International.
It was also revealed that David Cameron’s chief of staff had rejected a police offer to brief the Prime Minister on the hacking inquiry – a revelation branded “astonishing” by Labour. And there was further embarrassment for the Tories when it was claimed former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis, who was arrested last week, may have given informal advice to the party’s then communications chief Andy Coulson, who was himself editor of the tabloid and has also been arrested, before the election.
Rebekah Brooks, who was ed itor of the News of the World when murder victim Milly Dowler’s phone is said to have been hacked, also offered a “personal apology” for what had happened and insisted she only knew about the allegations when they were reported in the media.
The appearance by Rupert and James Murdoch came after the pair were summoned to appear before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
Casualties at Mr Murdoch’s company have mounted as top employees resigned in the wake of the scandal, which also saw the closure of the News of the World, but Rupert Murdoch insisted he would not be following them.
Asked whether he would resign, he replied: “No, because I feel that the people I trusted, I don’t know at what level, let me down and I think they behaved disgracefully, betrayed the company and me and it’s for them to pay. I think that frankly I’m the best person to clear this up.”
Mr Murdoch admitted mistakes were made over the phone-hacking scandal as he repeatedly apologised and declared: “This is the most humble day of my life.”
James Murdoch said the company was determined “to put things right” and insisted it had acted “swiftly” as soon as it became aware of fresh evidence over phone hacking following civil actions in 2010.