There was a moment at the Leveson inquiry on Thursday when Rupert Murdoch actually sounded contrite. Appearing before the British inquiry into media ethics for the second day in a row, he apologized to the “innocent staff” of News of the World, who lost their jobs after the media mogul shuttered the tabloid when it became mired in the phone-hacking scandal that still plagues Britain.
While Murdoch, as the chairman of the media conglomerate News Corp., which owns and operates several influential newspapers including The Times of London, The Sun and the now-defunct NotW, has noted his sorrow over the closing of the redtop tabloid, his apology was notable simply because it was in sharp contrast to the rest of his testimony.
Seemingly aligning himself with the rest of the “innocent staff,” Murdoch testified that he, too, was an injured party in a cover-up of illegal behavior carried out by certain figures at NotW. “The senior executives were all misinformed and shielded from anything that was going on there,” he said, adding that the shielding had been the work of “one or two very strong characters.”
While he didn’t directly name the two “characters” he was referring to, he did have strong words and criticisms for myriad other characters and corporations for a wide range of reasons. Among them were his son James (“inexperienced”), former NotW editor Colin Myler (“I think editors are all responsible for their papers”), former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil (“[he found it] very profitable to spread lies about me”), the influential BBC (“one of the reasons why newspaper circulations are in decline”), and former Prime Minister John Major (“bitter”).
His testimony proved a marked contrast to the seemingly humble appearance he made before a government inquiry on phone-hacking last summer. This time round, Murdoch seemed quick to lay blame and maintained that he was also a wronged party in the scandal.
However, when the lead lawyer for the inquiry, Robert Jay QC, asked Murdoch if it wasn’t true that as the head of the corporation, the chairman should shoulder the blame, he did make a concession. “I failed,” Murdoch said, noting he should have tried harder to get to the bottom of the scandal himself. “And I’m sorry about it.”