A Parliamentary inquiry into top executives' handling of the News Corp. scandal was expected to strongly rebuke top News of the World editors and executives, including the Daily News' Colin Myers. The report, released today, did so — but Parliament, somewhat unexpectedly, saved its strongest words for Rupert Murdoch.
During last summer's hearings into the scandal, Murdoch seemed confused and every bit the octogenarian; his claims at ignorance of the situation were interpreted by some as a canny, protective act to avoid censure. But Parliament, it seems, isn't going to let him off that easily.
According to the committee's findings, Murdoch "did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking" and "turned a blind eye and exhibited willfull blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications." The sharpest dagger: "We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of major international company." Murdoch's son James, who severely underestimated the significance of the scandal, was also reprimanded for a "lack of curiosity" and "willful ignorance even." The Guardian:
Even if James Murdoch did not appreciate the significance of the £700,000 Taylor payout, the committee concluded it was "simply astonishing" that he did not realise that the "one 'rogue reporter' line was untrue" until late 2010, after a previous inquiry by the culture select committee which ran during 2009 and reported in February 2010.
The committee's Conservatives, who defended Murdoch, were outvoted by the Liberal coalition, six-to-five. Everyone, however, agreed that Myler, along with NOTW's former top lawyer Tom Crone and onetime News International chairman Les Hinton, deliberately withheld information.
News Corp.'s initial statement in response to the committee's findings was muted: "News Corporation is carefully reviewing the Select Committee's report and will respond shortly. The Company fully acknowledges significant wrongdoings at News of the World and apologizes to everyone whose privacy was invaded."
Update: The company appears to be standing by its man: News Corp.'s full statement, below:
Hard truths have emerged from the Select Committee Report: that there was serious wrongdoing at the News of the World; that our response to the wrongdoing was too slow and too defensive; and that some of our employees misled the Select Committee in 2009.
News Corporation regrets, however, that the Select Committee's analysis of the factual record was followed by some commentary that we, and indeed several members of the committee, consider unjustified and highly partisan. These remarks divided the members along party lines.
We have already confronted and have acted on the failings documented in the Report: we have conducted internal reviews of operations at newspapers in the United Kingdom and indeed around the world, far beyond anything asked of us by the Metropolitan Police; we have volunteered any evidence of apparent wrongdoing to the authorities; and, we have instituted sweeping changes in our internal controls and our compliance programs on a world-wide basis, to help ensure that nothing like this ever happens again anywhere at News Corporation.
As we move forward, our goal is to make certain that in every corner of the globe, our company acts in a manner of which our 50,000 employees and hundreds of thousands of shareholders can be justly proud.
Related: The Tabloid Turncoat [NYM]