Rupert Murdoch Apologizes, But Blames Phone-Hacking Cover-up on Colin Myler

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Photo: Jason DeCrow/AP2007

Rupert Murdoch testified today that "one or two very strong characters" working at his now-closed News of the World tabloid tried to keep the widespread nature of the phone-hacking scandal not only from the public, but from him. Murdoch said he was "misinformed and shielded" from the realities at the paper, and when asked where the cover-up was coming from, he said, "I think from within the News of the World."

Murdoch was referring to, and basically blaming, the editor Colin Myler, the subject of a New York story this week, who joined the News in 2007, when phone hacking was thought to be the work of one "rogue" reporter. Today, Murdoch said Myler was hired "with specific instructions to find out what was going on," but that he "never reported back that there was more hacking than we had been told."

But the boss also took this opportunity to say sorry. "The News of the World was an aberration and it's my fault," he said. He acknowledged that "the buck stops with me," and apologized "to a lot of people, including all the innocent people … who lost their jobs."

"I panicked," he said of closing the paper. "But I'm glad I did. I'm sorry I didn’t close it years ago and put a Sunday Sun in." (He also predicted the end of newspapers as we know them in the next twenty years.) Murdoch called the News "a serious blot on my reputation," but insisted, "There was no attempt either at my level or several levels below to cover it up. We set up inquiry after inquiry, we employed legal firm after legal firm. Perhaps we relied too much on the conclusions of the police."

The oscillating by Murdoch between taking the blame and implicating others, most directly Myler, is a shrewd tactic that allows him to appear to show remorse but also attempt to avoid legal culpability. Myler, who now edits Murdoch's New York tabloid rival the Daily News, first became a fall man in the scandal during testimony before parliament by the Murdochs last year, although he insisted that he alerted James Murdoch to the scale of the problem. "As far as I am concerned, there was no ambiguity," Myler said, as reported in New York. And like he said years ago, "Responsibility regarding the corporate governance of a company goes beyond my pay grade."

Related: The Tabloid Turncoat [NYM]