Rupert Murdoch: “Humble” but Not Responsible, Rebuts 9/11 Hacking Charges

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Rupert Murdoch, at first exhibiting the air of a slightly confused old man, testified in front of a parliamentary committee in London on Tuesday. He began with a slightly off-cue interruption saying unsolicited that he was happy to be testifying. He followed up with the headline-baiting assertion, again by way of an interruption, that “This is the most humble day of my life.”

Throughout the early direct questioning by Labour MP Tom Watson, Murdoch Sr. maintained that befuddled demeanor, looking down at his hands, pausing for many seconds before answering each question and claiming broad lapses of knowledge about the details of the hacking scandal that has consumed Britain and even basic areas of executive responsibility at NewsCorp.

As the hearing proceeded, however, Murdoch Sr. showed a fairly detailed knowledge of the day-to-day working of the newspapers involved in the scandal. (He was also almost pied in the face by an interloper.) He detailed, for example, the rules regarding expense account clearance procedures for reporters throughout his empire and his knowledge of a specific contract that his son James claimed not to know about.

The contrast brought to mind this famous:

On the burning question in Washington–whether Murdoch’s troubles will migrate across the Atlantic–the London testimony produced no action. Both James and Rupert Murdoch pushed back hard against the allegation that News Of The World reporters might have hacked into the phones of 9/11 victims or their families.”We have seen no evidence of that at all and as far as we know the FBI haven’t either,” Murdoch Sr. said. “If they do, we will treat it exactly the same way as we’ve treated [it] here, and I cannot believe it happened from anyone in America.”

Murdoch Sr. left open the door that it could have happened without his knowledge. “Whether someone at the News of the World, or [NewsCorp-hired private investigator] Mr. Mulcaire took it on himself to do it, I don’t know,” Murdoch said.

The 9/11 allegations are weak, and early efforts by the FBI and others have turned up no substance behind the charges. No formal investigation has been opened, and the FBI is still evaluating the charges. Congressional committees are keeping an eye on developments, but for now, they’re avoiding what could be a politically charged investigation themselves.