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Rupert Murdoch hit with a plate in UK Parliament

Last updated on: July 20, 2011 04:04 IST

Rupert Murdoch hit with a plate in UK Parliament

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High drama marked the hearing of Rupert Murdoch before British lawmakers in the phone hacking scandal during which the media baron said that it was "the most humble day of my life" and apologised to the victims but denied responsibility for the fiasco.

An intruder identified as Jonnie Marbles barged into the high-security committee room of the House of Commons and attacked the 80-year-old Murdoch with a plate.

The globally televised hearing where Murdoch faced intense grilling by parliamentarians, was suspended for about 15 minutes.

The intruder who described himself as an activist and comedian lunged towards Murdoch from behind and hit him on his shoulder with the plate with shaving foam. Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng sprung to his defence and appeared to be slapping the intruder who was quickly bundled out.

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Image: Jonnie Marbles tries to attack News Corp Chief Executive and Chairman Rupert Murdoch
Photographs: Reuters TV
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'This is the most humble day of my life'

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During the tense hearing, Murdoch and his son James apologised for the phone hacking, a scandal which has engulfed their media empire and rocked police and politicians to the core, and told lawmakers that "these actions do not live up to the standards our company aspires to."

"This is the most humble day of my life," Murdoch, the Australian-born head of the global News Corporation empire, told House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, that is seeking to uncover the extent of criminality his now-defunct News of the World tabloid.

Murdoch said he was "appalled and ashamed" to learn that the phone of 12-year-old girl Milly Dowler had been hacked by his now-closed News of the World, which was UK's largest selling tabloid.


Image: BSkyB Chairman James Murdoch and News Corp Chief Executive and Chairman Rupert Murdoch appear before a parliamentary committee on phone hacking at Portcullis House in London

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Do you accept responsibility? 'NO'

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He told MPs he was not aware that hacking was more widespread than originally claimed and he had "clearly" been misled by some of his staff.

Rupert denied ultimate responsibility for the phone-hacking scandal. When asked by lawmaker Jim Sheridan,"Do you accept that ultimately you are responsible for this whole fiasco?", Murdoch tersely replied: "No".

When asked who he blamed, Murdoch said: "The people that I trusted to run it (his media empire) and then maybe the people they trusted."

The Australian media titan's appearance on Tuesday is his first direct scrutiny by MPs during his 40-year UK media career.



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'Mistakes were made but we are putting them right'

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Rebekah Brooks, the former CEO of News International who appeared before the committee said, she was aware that the News of the World used the services of private detectives.

"I was aware that News of the World used private investigators," 43-year-old former executive of the tabloid said.

The flame haired journalist who is on the line of fire for the hacking scandal said, she never sanctioned payments to police. She also apologised for the intercepts and said "We have acted as quickly as possible over evidence".

"Mistakes were made but we are putting them right," she told lawmakers, who grilled her for the fiasco that shook the British police and politics.

The hacking issue has shaken the British establishment and placed Prime Minister David Cameron under tremendous pressure from Labour and some of his own MPs over his decision to hire ex-NoW editor Andy Coulson as his communications chief.

Coulson, who was arrested two weeks ago, resigned as editor of the tabloid due to the phone-hacking allegations.



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News of the World 'just 1 per cent' of Murdoch's worldwide business

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Rupert said the News of the World was "just 1 per cent" of his worldwide business and that he employed "people I trust to run these divisions".

Right at the beginning, James, chairman of News International, apologised to victims, saying he had great regrets and that the firm failed to live up to "the standards they aspired to" and was "determined to put things right and make sure they do not happen again".

"I would like to say just how sorry I am and how sorry we are to particularly the victims of illegal voice mail interceptions and to their families," James said.

On the issue of Brooks, James said he had "no knowledge or evidence" that the former chief executive had knowledge of the phone hacking.

Opening the hearing, the committee chairman John Whittingdale said abuses had been uncovered "which had shocked and angered the country" and it was clear Parliament had been misled.

The father-son duo had initially declined to appear before the parliamentary committee but changed their minds after they were issued with a summons to attend.



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'I lost sight of News of the World'

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Others who were questioned by the committee included the outgoing chief of the London Metropolitan Police Paul Stephenson.

Rupert said he has seen no evidence that 9/11 victims were targeted by his newspapers. Murdoch told the committee that he didn't believe the FBI had uncovered any evidence of it, either.

Rupert said, he lost sight of News of the World because it is such a small part of his company.

Earlier, British lawmakers quizzed Paul Stephenson, the outgoing chief of the Metropolitan Police who was grilled by a House of Commons panel, defended himself and denied taking a swipe at Cameron in his resignation speech.

He was quizzed a number of times on the hiring of the News of the World journalist Neil Wallis -- who has since been arrested over phone-hacking scandal -- as an adviser in the Metropolitan Police.


Image: Outgoing Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson

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'We need to change the way we do it'

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"No reason to suspect that Wallis was involved in the phone hacking when he was hired. There was no conflict of interest," he told the Committee.

Replying to a question on the press-police relationship, 57-year-old police officer, who resigned as London's top cop on Sunday amid questions about his links to Wallis, also said it is quite clear "we need to change the way we do it."

Stephenson explained that "distracting" stories about his links to the affair left him with no choice but to resign, adding: "It was my decision and my decision only."

Stephenson said he was saddened to have to leave but he took the decision to go because of "extraordinary times".



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'Original hacking investigation was successful'

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Referring to the original hacking investigation in 2006, the outgoing Commissioner said he had "no reason to expect that it was unsuccessful".

He said it had not been a "priority" for him at the time.

Murdoch's embattled group has publicly apologised twice during the weekend, promising to make amends in the aftermath the hacking scandal.

The company printed apologies in national newspapers on Saturday and Sunday for the wrongdoings and unethical practices adopted by journalists of the now-closed tabloid.

Two senior police figures -- Metropolitan Police Commissioner Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates -- who quit over the scandal were grilled by MPs.



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