Murdoch attacked as defends self to UK parliament

LONDON, (Reuters) – Rupert Murdoch was attacked by a  protester today while giving evidence to a British  parliamentary committee at which he defended his son and his  company over a scandal that has rocked the British  establishment.
After two and half hours of evidence from the 80-year-old  magnate and his 38-year-old son James, a man appeared to rise  from the public area of the committee room and tried to hit the  elder Murdoch with a “custard pie” — a dish of white foam.
As James rose and police moved in, watched live by millions  on television, Rupert Murdoch’s 42-year-old wife Wendi Deng, who  had been sitting right behind her husband, leaped forward to  slap the man. He was hauled away and the session suspended.
Ten minutes later, the session resumed with an apology from  the chairman and a comment from one lawmaker that the Murdochs  had shown “immense guts” to continue taking questions. Rupert  Murdoch had removed his jacket.
At the start of proceedings, the elder Murdoch had rejected  personal responsibility for the phone-hacking and corruption  scandal but, with his son, said the company was deeply sorry and  intended to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
Sitting next to James, who opened the much-awaited  proceedings in a packed committee room at Westminster by  apologising to victims of voicemail hacking, the Australian-born  chief executive of News Corp interjected:
“I would just like to say one sentence,” he said.
“This is the most humble day of my life.”
He later said he was “shocked, appalled and ashamed” when he  read two weeks ago of the case that has transformed the  smouldering scandal into a “firestorm”, in the words of Prime  Minister David Cameron. It has shaken Britons’ trust in the  press, police and politicians, including Cameron himself.
Murdoch has shut down his top-selling Sunday newspaper, the  168-year-old tabloid News of the World, and dropped a  strategically important buyout bid for broadcaster BSkyB.
But asked flat out if he considered himself personally  responsible “for this fiasco”, Murdoch replied simply: “No.”
Asked who was, he said: “The people that I trusted to run  it, and then maybe the people they trusted.” His son said they  did not believe the two most senior executives to have resigned,  Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton, knew of wrongdoing.
Several people were ejected from the packed public area of  the room as proceedings were beginning after holding up posters  reading “Murdoch wanted for news crimes”. Outside, demonstrators  also kept vigil throughout the hearing.
During questioning, Murdoch insisted that he had been misled  when previously denying that phone hacking at the News of the  World went beyond the case of a reporter who was jailed for the  offence in 2007. Occasionally slapping the table in apparent  frustration, he said the paper was only a small part of his  business, suggesting he could not supervise it personally.
Asked about one of 10 journalists arrested this year by  police probing hacking, he said gruffly: “Never heard of him.”
He added: “This is not an excuse. Maybe it’s an explanation  of my laxity. The News of the World is less than one percent of  our company. I employ 53,000 people around the world.”

As the session before the lower house media committee got  under way, the chairman rejected a request by James Murdoch, the  38-year-old heir apparent and chairman of British newspaper unit  News International, to make an opening statement.
However, after a first question, the younger Murdoch began  by offering an apology: “I would just like to say how sorry I am  and how sorry we are to particularly the victims of the illegal  voicemail interceptions and to their families.
“It is a matter of great regret, of mine, of my father’s, and  everyone at News Corporation. These actions do not live up to  the standards that our company aspires to everywhere around the  world and it is our determination to put things right, to make  sure these things do not happen again and to be the company that  I know we have always aspired to be.”
The elder Murdoch said he had seen no evidence to support a  suggestion his journalists might have tried to spy on the  families of victims of the 9/11 attacks in the United States.  The FBI is looking into that allegation.
The two Murdochs sat side by side at a table facing the  horseshoe of lawmakers asking their questions. Occasionally, the  younger Murdoch attempted to break in to answer questions posed  to his father.
With a second British police chief quitting on Monday over  the scandal, Cameron cut short a trade trip to Africa and was  due to return in time for an emergency debate on Wednesday in  parliament, which is delaying its summer recess.
Speaking in Lagos, Nigeria, before flying home as the  committee hearing began, Cameron said he was committed, through  new investigations, to addressing three key problems: “The  wrongdoing in parts of the media and the potential that there is  corruption in the police and … the third … which is the  relationship between politicians and the media.”
But he also signalled a desire to push the agenda away from  a scandal that has dominated every debate for two full weeks:
“The British public want something else too,” Cameron said.

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