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Rupert Murdoch explains it all: 'I'm not really in touch'

Rupertmurdochstory2 Despite calling it “the most humble day of my life,” media mogul Rupert Murdoch flatly denied bearing  any responsibility for the alleged illegal conduct that led to him closing the News of the World as well as the arrest of its editor.

Instead, he pointed to “the people I employed or perhaps the people they employed” as being to blame for what appears to be the systemic use of phone hacking and payments to police. “I’m not really in touch,” he said, adding that he spent most of his time with the Wall Street Journal, which no doubt the editors there were thrilled to hear. At one point, he was unable to name the top legal team of News Corp.

While son James tap-danced as fast he could, throwing out Watergate-era terms like “not to my knowledge” and “I have no direct knowledge of that,” Rupert sat owlishly beside him, appearing strangely unprepared for anything beyond the opportunity to listen to his son read a prepared statement, something he was not allowed to do.

Murdoch the elder, appearing every one of his 80 years and then some, answered questions with an odd combination of long and mystifying pauses, stray bits of misinformation that James then corrected, and a general air of bafflement that anyone would think he could or should be aware of the activities of those who worked for his newspapers, including very public pay-outs to those who had their phones hacked and the arrests of reporters.

Occasionally he struck the desk with a chopping Khruschevian motion, but after a bit he wisely stopped doing this.

When, early on in the testimony before Parliament’s committee on culture, media and sport, lawmaker Tom Watson asked if Murdoch was aware that News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks had previously admitted bribing police, Murdoch acted as if he did not have access to the Internet, never mind a like-a-daughter-to-me relationship with Brooks herself. And when Watson asked if, after that revelation, Murdoch conducted any sort of internal investigation, the media mogul looked at him as if Watson had asked if he cleaned his own toilets. “No,” he answered.

By contrast, James Murdoch bubbled and twitched with the desire to answer any and all questions, especially those directed at his father, like Hermione Granger in potions class. “I can answer that,” “perhaps it would be helpful if I answered that,” “I’m happy to answer that.” Many of his answers followed the same note — he and his father simply believed the outcome of a 2007 police investigation, which found that that hacking of phones was done by a few rogue reporters, and were cooperating fully with the police now as they ever have been, which of course means they cannot be expected to answer many of the questions the committee had.

(Memo to Wall Street Journal: Apparently the Murdochs consider it the responsibility of the police to monitor the journalistic practices of their publications.)

Pointedly using terms like “collective amnesia” and “willful ignorance,” the members of the committee made it clear that no one was biting. Repeatedly, the implication from members of all political stripe and regional accent was that, like it or not, the Murdochs are indeed responsible for the actions of their employees and if they weren’t aware of what those actions were, they should have been, no matter how big the empire or how divided their attention.

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-- Mary McNamara

Photo: Rupert Murdoch. Credit: Reuters.

 
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