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Murdoch spends 'most humble day' answering tough questions

world Updated: Jul 20, 2011 00:45 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar

Media baron Rupert Murdoch on Tuesday refused to take any personal responsibility for the phone-hacking and corruption scandal that is rocking his global empire but apologized to the victims. Towards end of his testimony at a public hearing before a committee of British MPs, Murdoch was smeared with foam by a protestor. Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng slapped the man on the head before police led him away.

"This is the most humble day of my life," the 80-year-old chief executive of News Corp. said. Murdoch said he genuinely regretted the actions by the News of the World, a tabloid he owned, which allegedly hacked into the telephone voicemails of ordinary people and paid police for information.

But asked flat out if he considered himself personally responsible "for this fiasco", Murdoch replied: "No."

Asked who was, he said: "The people that I trusted to run it, and then maybe the people they trusted." His son James said they did not believe the two most senior News Corp. executives to have resigned, Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton, knew of wrongdoing.

The floodgates opened two weeks ago when a lawyer for the family of a murdered teenage schoolgirl Milly Dowler said the paper had hacked her phone when she was missing, deleting messages and raising false hopes she could be still alive.

The ensuing outrage prompted News Corp to close the 168-year-old News of the World and drop a $12 billion plan to take full control of pay TV operator BSkyB , and saw the arrest of Brooks, who last week resigned as head of News Corp.'s British newspaper operations. She joined her former bosses in apologising to the British parliament.

It was pure political theatre on Tuesday, with people began queuing up to attend the public hearing as early as 6.30 am – eight hours before it began. Separately, another committee heard evidence from Britain's two senior-most police officers, Paul Stephenson and Yates who have quit over the affair.