Rupert Murdoch: I went through Mr. Brown’s back door many times

I’m livetweeting the Murdoch hearings–follow along @emptywheel.

The highlights thus far are:

MP Watson kept refusing to let James Murdoch answer questions for his father. At one point, Watson said, “Your father is responsible for corporate governance and it’s revealing how little he knows.” The only question Watson asked James–which he didn’t really answer–was “I’d like you to tell me whether you told your father” about one of the settlements.

In a key exchange, Watson asked Rupert, “Mr. Murdoch, at what point did you find out criminality was endemic at NotW?” Rupert answered, “Endemic is a very wide word.”

In other exchanges, Rupert was stumped. On at least two occasions, he took more than 10 seconds to answer a question.

Another MP made a big deal about Rupert going through the back door of the Prime Minister’s residence. Rupert explained, “I was asked. I just did what I was told.” At one point, James tried to interrupt to explain the special politics of Murdoch going through the back door. Then finally, Rupert said (this is not quite a direct quote), I went through Mr. Brown’s back door many times.

Then he asked the big question:

Mr. Murdoch: Do you accept that ultimately you are responsible for this whole fiasco? Rupert: No.

63 replies
  1. prostratedragon says:

    I could have sworn he hung the whole matter on Les Hinton a few minutes ago.

    (Guess maybe I’ll try to figure out this twitter thing today.)

  2. joberly says:

    Hello, EW. Tom Watson came well-prepared. The long series of questions about the 700,000 settlement-payment in 2009 to the head of the Football Players Union revealed that Rupert was either a liar or disengaged about the doings of News International (the four papers–Sun, Times, Sunday Times, and News of the World). To her credit, the Tory MP Therese Coffey followed up and pressed James Murdoch on the Gordon Taylor payment.

  3. prostratedragon says:

    Someone at CSPAN tripped over a plug; restored after 2-3min.

    James’s suit —north of 4US, eh? Soft wool fabric, fits like a second skin.

  4. joberly says:

    @prostratedragon. Yes, JMurdoch looks snazzy with that suit and haircut. There also seems to be an army of NewsCorp advisers, lawyers, PR flacks, etc in the row behind JMurdoch and Rupert. They prepped James quite well, but poor old Rupert looks ready for the old-folks home. The Tory MP Phillip Davies is less interested in the legal settlement money paid to the Football Association guy than to the 2007 hush-money payoffs to the one-time *News of the World* “Royals” correspondent Clive Goodman to keep his mouth shut about what he knew about hacking as SOP at News Intl.

  5. MadDog says:

    Shorter Jimbo on payment of legal fees for guilty-pleading criminal NoW employees: “It’s customary…sometimes.”

    Shorter Jimbo on the sun rising in the East: “It’s customary…sometimes.”

  6. Kathleen says:

    poor old Rupert looks ready for the old-folks home.

    “poor” he is not. 80 yes he is. His aging process is definitely not an advantage at this point

  7. Nola Sue says:

    (Greetings, all, from a lapsed long-timer. More on that later. Congrats on the new digs.)

    Are we seeing “too big to effectively manage” as a defense? Thinking ahead to potential, appropriate, meaningful consequences that may (may not) actually come to pass.

    Wow. Thanks for shining yet another light.

  8. radiofreewill says:

    Just like MacBeth believing that Burnham Wood could never come to Dunsinane, Rupert would never have believed that he would, one day, single-handedly bring back the Fairness Doctrine, and with it the break-up of media conglomerates…

  9. joberly says:

    Two hours into the hearing and JMurdoch and Rupert are back to Alberto Gonzales’s US Atty-firings defense of too-big to know everything that was going on in the organization. As I recall, “Gonzo” kept saying to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he supervised 115,000 people in DOJ; the Murdochs keep saying today that they supervised 53,000 and *News of the World* was <1% of News Corp. Also, Rupert did say a few minutes ago that Les Hinton was the guy who made the decision about what emails to share with the law firm that wrote the whitewash report. That's about the third Hinton reference that RMurdoch has made

  10. Gitcheegumee says:

    The present interogator,Damian Collins, disclosed at the outset of his inquiries,that his wife works for Edelman-the PR firm advising the Murdochs.

    Perhaps its just me, but this particular interlude seems to be softball questions of their own. JMHO.,and allowing the Murdochs great latitude to do some PR pontificating

  11. prostratedragon says:

    Been thinking about the Scottish play a lot lately myself;) Or the Japanese version, the one with all the arrows.

  12. prostratedragon says:

    I see … had another tab up visually, so all I heard was some commotion, and the questioner suddenly taking exception to something.

  13. joberly says:

    @prostatedragon–somebody tried to put a shaving-cream pie on RMurdoch’s face. Mrs. M. (the one seated behind him with the beige suit and long black hair) hit the pie-in-the-face guy with either a punch or a slap. The committee chair suspended the hearing for ten minutes.

  14. prostratedragon says:

    Andrew Sparrow says Wendi Murdoch fended off the attacker with a pretty good palm.

    Seems the fellow pied Murdoch.

  15. Nola Sue says:

    Watching MSNBC video replays. Looks like Rupert has some white stuff on his jacket shoulder — a partial hit, at any rate.

    Will enjoy a pic of Rupert with “pie” on his face.

  16. Brian Silver says:

    “went through the back door” — FINALLY, some sex in this scandal. So very un-American, this event. Where’s the infidelity, the sexual assaults, and so on?

  17. joberly says:

    “Humble-Pie-gate” is what the *Guardian* tweeted, combining the Murdoch apologies during the hearing with the sudden appearance of the shaving-cream guy attacker.

  18. Gitcheegumee says:


    How terribly disappointoing that humble pie is today’s selection.

    I had so hoped todays offering would have been mince meat.

  19. rugger9 says:

    Rupert pays himself very big bikkies to know what goes on in his operations, and he is known as a micromanager on key details. Does anyone really believe that at least one corporate lawyer wouldn’t have raised the issue along the lines of “Rupert, you’re out on a ledge here” for prosecution? After all, it’s against the law pretty much world wide [noting that the Aussies are inquiring now] to hack phones like they did.

    Also, Rupert is in charge, so if Hinton goes, Rupert should go too. It’s the price of command.

  20. Gitcheegumee says:

    For my two cents, they saved the best for last,i.e.,Louise Mensch. (Perfect name.)

    My other favorite,Tom Watson.

  21. Gitcheegumee says:

    Willful blindness:

    “It’s hard to get a man to understand something (or to remember),when his paycheck depends upon not understanding (or not remembering)it.”

  22. joberly says:

    @Gitcheegumee– Great name “Mensch” I agree, it’s her married name. I also agree that she did a good job on her questions. Even more interesting is her day-job in writing romance novels. The Select Committee has a page on its website where the MPs report sources of outside income and possible conflicts of interest. Her collected works include *Glitz* *Glitter* *Sparkle* and something called *Venus Envy*

    • bmaz says:

      Yes, it is her married name. Her husband, by the way is the manager for the bands Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

  23. Gitcheegumee says:

    Quite telling that Murdoch,in his closing soliloquoy, uses the term “wrong” repeatedly in relation to hacking and bribery- which are beyond wrong,they constitute criminal activity.

  24. Brian Silver says:

    This hearing need an experienced prosecutor asking the questions — and given the time to follow up. Many too many softball questions and evasive answers.

    I loved Rupert’s “Mistakes were made within the organization” answer. Where? By whom? Couldn’t get junior even to say whether he was conducting a global review of practices. And so he got off by saying we have a set of internal codes of conduct — without taking about whether those standards are being met or how they are enforced.

  25. Gitcheegumee says:


    They say to catch a thief, hire a thief. So,when dealing with works of Murdoch fiction,Ms.Mensch is well equipped to ask the right questions.

    Seems she diminished some of the Murdochian glow and sparkle.

  26. Nola Sue says:

    WTF? Bloomberg reporter on MSNBC, commenting on increase in NI stock price during Murdochs’ appearance.

    Sez investors are reassured by their “strong performances.” Was he watching the same thing I was?!? Yet another reason to be, um, underwhelmed by national media.

  27. radiofreewill says:

    @prostratedragon – I think it’s Brooks’ Lady MacBeth hair and cold calculating gaze…

    …but James seems to warming to the lead role pretty quickly…

    …and Rupert certainly makes a fine ‘unsuspecting’ King Duncan caught-up in the machinations of his ‘loyal’ subjects.

    Now, all we need is The Law to show-up as McDuff!

  28. prostratedragon says:

    Rupert might wish he were cast as Duncan, but I can think of no one on the scene today who has acted more as if he were protected by a prophecy, the unexpected sense of which suddenly became clear in the last couple of weeks.

    With the generations under him, maybe MacLear.

  29. Gitcheegumee says:

    I just reviewed the Wiki on James Watson MP-WOW!!

    Of especial interest and MOST illuminating is the last link,at the end of the article. A must read,imho-explains much and totally related to today’s proceedings:

    Walker, Jonathon (2011-07-08). “The Tom Watson Story: The man who took on Rupert Murdoch and won”. Birmingham Post.

  30. Kathleen says:

    emptywheel emptywheel
    RT @arusbridger: Rebekah Brooks says Guardian near top of list of IICO’s list of papers using PIs. Actually not on list at all.
    35 minutes ago
    emptywheel emptywheel
    Haha! Rebekah tries to say Observer was among top newspapers in using PIs. Farrelly corrects her.
    36 minutes ago

    Look over there, no over there

  31. Kathleen says:

    Did not get that last questioners name ..tom maybe. Classic “find it alarming that you as the editor were so unaware of such fundamental issues”

  32. matthew carmody says:

    Nice to see a conservative with principles not afraid to show outrage at outrageous acts.

  33. EoH says:

    Yes, the Scottish play analogy seems all the vogue, though I should think there are are few apt analogies with Lear. The redoubtable Ms. Brooks, however, would not be cast as Cordelia.

  34. EoH says:

    Tom Watson did a fine job; pity he isn’t in Congress, but then Congress today doesn’t want answers to good questions. It wants campaign contributions and casts its votes accordingly.

    One of the blessings of the British system is that campaigns formally run no more than six weeks. They are, however, a bit like NPR fund-raisers that claim to last a single day but involve weeks of warming up and weeks of thank yous, making their marketing a lie.

  35. EoH says:

    Mr. Murdoch’s empire will exist, at least for a short while, after he’s gone to the great sheep station in the outback, but the only way Murdoch is likely to give up control or leave office is feet first. If Mr. Murdoch were as feeble as his behavior today suggests, it seems likely that his insider shareholders would be selling short or would have finagled him out of his job.

    Parliamentary hearings in Britain are as much theater as Congressional hearings are here. (As usual, the hard work is done in rehearsal.) And no one doubts Mr. Murdoch’s flair for the dramatic. Mr. Murdoch’s apparent feebleness seems likely to be a defensive strategy.

    Undoubtedly, Murdoch is less vigorous than he was 20-30 years ago, but odds are he retains tight control of his empire. The outcome from these scandals and what they might yet expose could ruin his UK operations or cost him billions in deals and a temporarily lower share price. It will affect his legacy. He is unlikely to leave the strategy of how to deal with them and its execution in the hands of others.

    Take apparent feebleness, for example. It lends credence to the oft-repeated line, “I have no recollection of that Senator,” or its UK equivalent. Brits are fond of their OAP’s and apparent feebleness could force even a brilliant advocate to soften or revise his or her questioning.

    Then, too, incompetence might lead to forced retirement, whereas mismanagement or criminal conduct could lead to massively expensive shareholder suits or the nick, with the keys tossed onto the railway line.

  36. NMvoiceofreason says:

    There is something incongruous about paying out settlement after settlement, publishing the results of hack after hack, bribe after bribe, then saying you didn’t know what was going on and are not responsible for it.

  37. Garrett says:

    OT, a rather pointed note to the convening authority (and participating prosecutors and judges), about al-Nashiri:

    The United States has prosecuted a Japanese convening authority, a prosecutor, and a judge, for complicity in torture by virtue of their participation in a military commission of American flyers who had been waterboarded by Japanese intelligence.

  38. emptywheel says:

    News Corp’s stock is up 6% on the day, so clearly stockholders weren’t buying the feeble ploy yet believed it was effective.

  39. Gitcheegumee says:


    I was hoping you would weigh in .It may be theater,Earl, but the scripts have better dialog and are certainly more intelligent than the NeoCon Kabuli here in the US.

  40. Gitcheegumee says:

    Damn, that should have read Kabuki. Kabuli sounds like a Middle Eastern city..or salad(Tabbouleh). *G*

  41. EoH says:

    To EW, I saw that upward blip in News Corp’s share price and agree that “the market” must think Murdoch’s performance today was a good one. That he was required to perform in public, however, is a step forward in the battle to limit his excesses. Like Cheney, he seems more powerful when he can wave his wand privately.

    As for Mr. Murdoch’s Freudian slurp about repeatedly entering Mr. Brown’s back door, it has the benefit of being more graphic than LBJ’s line about wanting to keep his minions’ and his opponents’ peckers in his pocket.

  42. orionatl says:

    i’d guess upward blips probably have less to do with what rm said and more to do with getting a bargain before the price goes back up


    the effect of $5B smackers in by-backs.

  43. orionatl says:

    NMVofReason @3:01p

    my thoughts exactly.

    i’m not following this along, but that should be a major target of any serious questioning.

  44. P J Evans says:

    I understand Rupert claimed he was feeling ‘humbled’ by the inquiry.
    Yeah, right. (When mountains rise up and fly away, maybe.)
    He should be feeling embarrassed, at the very least. Possibly in the way that he would be if his fly were open with, um, stuff hanging out.

  45. CTMET says:

    Crazy that some conservatives actually asked probing questions. I couldn’t imagine that happening here.

  46. Tom in AZ says:

    Nice work Marcy. Like the heady, early days. Not yet slick, but one can feel building of something special this way cometh…

  47. mzchief says:

    Congratulations on your new place, EmptyWheel. A UK scientist I spoke with recently snorted over the word “humbled” as uttered by Rupert in his pathetically disingenuous mea culpa. I’m looking forward to the revelations of who assisted– and on what continents– in Rupert’s international spy business all these decades. Those with spare change can give investigations a boost to “End Murdoch’s Criminal Empire with a small donation to Avaaz.Org here.

  48. Kathleen says:

    “Gitcheegumee on July 19, 2011 at 12:10 pm said:

    Call me cynical, but was that part of PR to garner sympathy for Murdoch?”

    The good tough wife story was all over the MSM. The main topic about the story

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