THE 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 it was a matter of deep regret.
Mr Murdoch said he was “misinformed and shielded” from what was going on at the 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 Mrs [Rebekah] Brooks [chief executive of News International] or to James [Murdoch].”
“That’s not to excuse it on our behalf at all. I take it extremely seriously that that situation had arisen … I also have to say that I failed, and I’m sorry about it.”
Mr Murdoch said he was guilty of not having paid enough attention to the News of the World all the time he had owned it. “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.”
Mr Murdoch said he thought he had never met Jeremy Hunt, the minister under fire following leaks from his office while he was arbitrating the Murdoch bid for the 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].” He said he did not discuss with his son, James, whether Mr Hunt would be favourable towards the bid.
Asked about the 163 pages of emails between Mr Hunt’s office and the office of Fred Michel, the public affairs adviser to News International, Mr Murdoch said he thought Mr Michel might have exaggerated.
Mr Murdoch said the company would have achieved the Sky takeover had it not been caught up in the phone-hacking scandal.
He stood by his previous evidence that the former prime minister Gordon Brown had “declared war” on his media empire when it switched its endorsement to the Conservatives and he appeared to be “unbalanced” at the time.
Mr Murdoch said he gave his evidence under oath, “and I stand by every word of it”.
Meanwhile, fallout continued from earlier evidence given by James Murdoch, whose testimony on Tuesday revealed News International had received detailed leaks from the office of the Secretary of State, Mr Hunt, while Mr Hunt was overseeing the Murdoch bid for BSkyB.
The Opposition Leader, Ed Miliband, continued to ramp up the pressure on Mr Hunt, refusing to accept the resignation of his special adviser, Adam Smith, was enough. Mr Smith said he had “gone too far” when dealing with News International.
But Mr Miliband said the idea that Mr Smith had acted as a “lone wolf” beggared belief: “To believe Mr Hunt should stay in his job you have to believe that his special adviser was acting for six months with text messages and daily email exchanges … and that the secretary of state had no idea this was going on …
“I believe the reason Jeremy Hunt is being kept in his post is because [Prime Minister David] Cameron knows questions will move to him, his meetings with Mr Murdoch … what he said to James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks about the bid News Corp was making for BSkyB.”First published in the Sydney Morning Herald.