Murdoch hit with "foam pie" at parliamentary hearing

Other News Materials 19 July 2011 21:57 (UTC +04:00)
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch was attacked Tuesday by a member of the public gallery as he was questioned by British parliamentarians, apparently hit with a foam pie.
Murdoch hit with "foam pie" at parliamentary hearing

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch was attacked Tuesday by a member of the public gallery as he was questioned by British parliamentarians, apparently hit with a foam pie, DPA reported.

Live broadcast of the session, nearing an end after two and a half hours, cut away immediately, but Murdoch's wife Wendi could be seen slapping a man, whilst son James looked deeply shocked.

According to the Press Association, a man was seen being taken away in handcuffs. Witnesses in the room said the substance was white foam.

After a ten-minute break, the session restarted, with Murdoch appearing without a jacket.

At the beginning of the session, Murdoch told lawmakers it was "the most humble day of my life" as he faced questioning on the phone-hacking crisis that forced him to close the News of the World newspaper, and ended his News Corp's bid for BSkyB.

Murdoch, the chair and chief executive of News Corp and his son James, the chief executive of News Corp's Europe and Asia holdings, were making an unprecedented joint appearance before a committee of parliament - although only after being forced by a summons.

Murdoch's request to read out a initial statement of apology was refused at the beginning of the session.

The phone-hacking allegations, dating back to the early 2000s, have led to the resignation of Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International, the British arm of News Corp, Tom Crone, the News of the World's legal manager, and Les Hinton, the chief executive of Dow Jones, owned by News Corp.

It is thought up to 4,000 people may have had their phones hacked by the paper, from royals and celebrities, to murdered children and relatives of soldier killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Despite having previously said he would use the hearing to expose the "total lies" about his company, Murdoch, 80, initially appeared confused and monosyllabic.

At one point he had to be restrained from banging on the desk by his wife, Wendi, sitting behind him.

At the end of the session, Murdoch, asked if he should resign himself, said no, but added: "People I trusted have let me down. They acted disgracefully. Frankly I'm the best person to clear this up."

Asked if the FBI was investigating newer claims that relatives of the 9/11 attacks may have been hacked, Murdoch said he had "no evidence of that at all. As far as we know, the FBI haven't either."

One lawmaker asked Murdoch when he knew law-breaking was "endemic" at the News of the World. "Endemic is a very hard, a very wide ranging word," he replied. "I also have to be very careful not to prejudice the course of justice that is taking place now."

But asked if he had been misled by senior staff, he said simply: "Clearly."

At one point, asked about his influence and meetings with five prime ministers since Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, he joked: "I wish they'd leave me alone."

The one piece of damning evidence uncovered by the questioning may be that James Murdoch admitted that News International had paid "certain legal fees" to a private investigator, even after he had been exposed as hacking phones for News International.

But Murdoch senior concluded by telling parliamentarians: "There is no excuse for breaking the law any time. There is an excuse, if I may say so, for all newspapers when they wish to campaign for a change in the law but never to break it."

In addition to the resignations within Murdoch's empire over the scandal, two of Britain's most senior policemen resigned at the weekend over their close links with News International and previous failure to investigate the phone-hacking allegations properly.

They were Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan commissioner, and his deputy, John Yates.

Another person to resign over the issue was Andy Coulson, the editor of the News of the World when the allegations first emerged, who was then hired by David Cameron as his personal press advisor, both in opposition and on becoming prime minister.

Coulson was forced to resign, for a second time in the affair, as the prime minister's head of communications in January this year.

In another twist in the saga which has enveloped police, politicians and the media in Britain, a former News of the World reporter Sean Hoare was found dead at his home on Monday.

Hoare had been one of the initial whistleblowers who accused Coulson and the News of the World of illegally hacking people's phones.

Meanwhile, Brooks was arrested for 12 hours on Sunday before being released, in connection with the affair. A laptop thought to belong to her has been recovered by police.

Separately, Cameron has cut short a trip to Nigeria in order to return to Britain in order appear at prime ministers' questions on Wednesday.