Damage Control, Murdoch Style

Murdoch. Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Before News Corp. began its recent resignation-and-apology campaign, the corporation had a somewhat different approach to dealing with the News of the World problem: something more along the lines of a cover-up, according to the latest New York Times reporting.

Evidence indicating that The News of the World paid police for information was not handed over to the authorities for four years. Its parent company paid hefty sums to those who threatened legal action, on condition of silence. The tabloid continued to pay reporters and editors whose knowledge could prove embarrassing even after they were fired or arrested for hacking. A key editor’s computer equipment was destroyed, and e-mail evidence was lost. Internal advice to accept responsibility was ignored, former executives said.

Once the cat was out of the bag, News Corp. didn't stop trying to stuff it back in. Murdoch supposedly threatened the Daily Mail's editor with a bit of quid pro quo in a private meeting: "We are not going to be the only bad dog on the street," he said. Rebekah Brooks bared her teeth in a similar growl at the rival paper. When Lady Claudia Rothermere, wife of the Daily Mail's owner, overheard Brooks slamming her husband's paper as just as corrupt, she replied that the Mail didn't do illegal things. Brooks "asked who Lady Rothermere thought she was, “Mother Teresa?”

Perhaps the most telling detail in the story is that Murdoch's plan for gaining the public's sympathy involved flying commercial to London as the scandal was breaking. (Apparently he was the only person moved by the public theater of bank executives' 2009 transportation sacrifices.) Told that that probably wouldn't be a silver bullet, Murdoch apparently decided he might as well arrive at his own scandal in style, and in a Gulfstream: on to the next strategy.

Murdoch Aides Long Tried to Blunt Scandal Over Hacking [NYT]