'Unjustified': Murdoch hits back at MPs who say he's unfit to run company
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has hit back at a report by British MPs that concluded the media magnate was unfit to run a major company, describing the report as "unjustified and highly partisan".
But the company also admitted that the report contained some "hard truths" about phone hacking at its now-defunct London tabloid, The News of the World.
The truths included "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 [on media] in 2009", News Corp said in a statement.
In the MPs sights ... Rupert Murdoch, right, and his son James Murdoch. Photo: AP
The committee's report, released last night, found that Mr Murdoch was unfit to run a major global company because he had "turned a blind eye" and been "wilfully blind" regarding misdeeds at his British company, News International (NI).
The report also found that the then-chief of News International James Murdoch showed "wilful ignorance" of the extent of phone hacking in 2009 and 2010 and that three senior executives of the company had misled the committee.
The report accused a former executive chairman, Les Hinton, of being "complicit" in a cover-up at the paper. It also said the company's former legal manager, Tom Crone, and a former editor of The News of the World, Colin Myler, deliberately withheld crucial information and misled the committee in their evidence.
"Both Tom Crone and Colin Myler deliberately avoided disclosing crucial information to the committee and, when asked to do so, answered questions falsely," MPs concluded.
While the committee was unanimous that the declared lack of knowledge of hacking by both Murdochs was "astonishing", the conclusion that Rupert Murdoch was unfit was a contentious one, supported by Labour and Liberal Democrat members of the committee (six votes) and opposed by all the Conservative MPs (five votes). Two Conservatives later said no evidence on this issue had been put before the committee.
In its statement, News Corp said, "News Corporation regrets … 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 committee along party lines."
Messrs Hinton, Myler and Crone all issued statements denying that they had misled Parliament. Mr Hinton said he was "shocked and disappointed" by the accusations and refuted them utterly, saying: "I did not participate in a cover-up."
Meanwhile Labour MP Tom Watson claimed Murdoch papers might have hacked the voicemail of murdered children other than the one case to have come to light, that of 13-year-old Milly Dowler.
Rupert Murdoch shut The News of the World last July following public horror over revelations its journalists had hacked Milly's mobile after she went missing.
Mr Watson told reporters Mr Murdoch "has not said his last apology to the families of murdered children".
Mr Watson also suggested another scandal might be brewing over computer hacking by newspapers.
"I'm not certain, but I have reason to believe that the Serious Organised Crime Agency is in possession of computer hard drives that could show victims of computer hackers," he said.
The committee's report will be referred to the House of Commons, which will be asked to pass a motion endorsing the finding that former News International executives misled the committee.
The three executives might be called to the bar of the House of Commons to apologise to Parliament.
Committee MPs also asked for a debate on the appropriate penalties for anyone who commits contempt of Parliament by misleading a committee.