Les Hinton, who was in charge of the company's British newspapers during the hacking, has stepped down from his job as Wall Street Journal publisher and chief executive of
News Corp. Dow Jones. It's the biggest sign to date of the scandal bleeding over into the U.S. division, and particularly bad optics since Hinton runs the most upstanding of New Corp.'s properties and is considered a "close confidant" of Murdoch, after a 50-year career under him. Hinton was well liked by employees in addition to the boss — "Les is more" was an affectionate phrase used to describe him. But despite all that, his career appears to be just the latest victim of the News of the World misdeeds. His resignation is the latest salvo in a day of rapid-fire damage-control efforts from News Corp., including Rebekah Brooks's resignation and a series of public apologies from Murdoch.
If Hinton knew about the NotW hacking, as his resignation might seem to indicate, he surely regrets his performance during a 2003 inquiry into the paper's practices:
“Is it time to clean up your act?” demanded one member of Parliament. Les Hinton, the executive chairman of News International at the time, was indignant in his reply. “Clean up our act? Are you saying we’re dirty?”
In 2006, he told Parliament it was " limited to one rogue reporter."
Hinton, in addition to whatever maneuvering he may or may not have done to cover up the shady ethical practices of his employees, is also a "skilled dancer," according to the Times (which tantalizingly offers up the detail without any more background — are we talking flamenco? Hip-hop? Ballet?). So perhaps if this scandal keeps ballooning, he'll become enough of a household name to go on Dancing With the Stars. Right now, though, he's on the forced reality show that is I'm a News Corp. Executive ... Get Me Out of Here!. Who's next to get booted?
Update: Slate's Jack Shafer has a pretty good idea of who is next — James Murdoch, who until now has been shielded by Rebekah Brooks. With her gone, he's next to face the glare of public attention. Shafer predicts his dad will send him to Siberia (literally, he may go back to Asia) and bring in his un-hack-tainted other children Elizabeth and Lachlan into prime positions.