MEDIA magnate Rupert Murdoch last night admitted there had been a “cover-up” over phone hacking at News International, that he had failed, and that he deeply regretted it.
Mr Murdoch said he was “misinformed and shielded” from what was going on at News of the World: “I do blame one or two people for that, who perhaps I shouldn’t name, for all I know they may be arrested.
“There is no question in my mind, maybe even the editor, but certainly beyond that someone took charge of a cover-up which we were victim to, and I regret [that].”
Asked where the “culture of cover-up” had come from, Mr Murdoch said, “I think from within the News of the World, there were one or two very strong characters there who I think had been there many, many, many years and were friends of the journalists, or the person I’m thinking of was a friend of the journalists and a drinking pal and a clever lawyer, and forbade them . . . this person forbade people to go and report to [chief executive Rebekah] Brooks or to [my son] James.”
He said there was no attempt at cover-up at his level, or for several levels below him.
“That’s not to excuse it on our behalf at all. I take it extremely seriously that that situation had arisen.”
He said, “I also have to say that I failed, and I’m sorry about it.”
He said he was guilty of not having paid enough attention to News of the World all the time he had owned it because he was more interested in the excitement of building a new newspaper and in the problems of The Times and The Sunday Times.
“All I can do is apologise to a lot of people including all the innocent people at the News of the World who have lost their jobs as a result of that.”
He said he had spent hundreds of millions of dollars and hired outside law firms to investigate the phone-hacking scandal but that he should have taken over the matter himself in 2007, when the royal reporter of News of the World, Clive Goodman, wrote a letter saying others were involved. “I should have gone in and thrown all the damn lawyers out of the place and seen Mr Goodman one on one — he had been an employee a long time — and cross-examined him myself and made up my mind whether he was telling the truth.
“If I had reached the conclusion he was telling the truth, I would have torn the place apart and we wouldn’t be here today.”
He said “the business of” News of the World “is a serious blot on my reputation”. He killed the paper because there had been a nationwide response to the news that the paper had hacked the phone of a murdered schoolgirl and “you could feel the blast coming in the window”.
Mr Murdoch said he thought he had never met Jeremy Hunt, the government minister now under fire following leaks from his office while he was arbitrating the Murdoch bid for satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
“I don’t believe I ever met him. I am not sure whether he came to a dinner once a couple of years ago, but no, I certainly didn’t discuss [the bid with him].”