British phone hacking scandal: Rupert Murdoch testifies before lawmakers
LONDON (AP) - The attacker struck in a flash, pie dish in hand. A scuffle broke out, shaving foam flew. James Murdoch sprang up, astonished. His father stayed seated, unfazed.
The moment of slightly farcical drama in Parliament on Tuesday highlighted the contrasting styles of the blunt, combative media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his smooth, Harvard-educated son.
The 38-year-old son appeared eager to answer questions, but it was his father who increasingly dominated a session designed to show British lawmakers - and News Corp. shareholders - that the 80-year-old mogul remains firmly in control.
Rupert Murdoch has never before appeared in front of a parliamentary committee - his son gave evidence in 2009 - and both Murdochs tried to avoid it this time around. They initially declined to come and answer questions about lawbreaking at their now-closed tabloid News of the World, only agreeing once legislators dispatched a sergeant-at-arms with a summons.
They clearly decided contrition was their best hope for winning over the committee, disgusted readers and worried investors.
Rupert Murdoch said he was "shocked, appalled and ashamed" at the hacking of the phone of a murdered schoolgirl. This was "the most humble" day of his life, he said.
But if he was humbled, he didn't look it. Sitting beside his son in front of a semicircle of legislators, with a row of advisers and his wife Wendi Deng behind him, the grim-faced media baron looked like he'd rather be anywhere else.
He seemed reluctant and at times uncertain as he was asked whether he knew staff at his News of the World had been hacking the phones of celebrities, politicians and even teenage murder victims.
He answered several questions with a curt "Nope." Did he know about the illegal eavesdropping? No. Was he aware his News International had paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds to hacking victims? No. Why hadn't he fired a disgraced reporter named Neville Thurlbeck? "Never heard of him."
The implicit suggestion was that the emperor of News Corp. couldn't be expected to know about a newspaper that made up just 1 percent of his globe-spanning empire.
London business consultant Allyson Stewart-Allen said the responses implied "not a lot of knowledge" about fundamental facets of the business.
"The impression is not owning the problem," she said.
In contrast, James Murdoch appeared more conciliatory, repeatedly offering to interject and asking "may I help?" as his father made a finger-wagging point.
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