“This is the most humble day of my life.”
Touching, wasn’t it? The great press baron Rupert Murdoch humbling himself before a Parliamentary committee yesterday. But Murdoch used the wrong word. It was in fact the most mendacious day of his life, and the most reprehensible. True to form, this ruthless man was willing to blame unknown underlings and let them take the fall while he protected his own self-interest. Here’s an excerpt from today’s New York Times:
But his humility did not extend to declaring that he was at fault or that he should step down from his company. “I feel that people I trusted — I don’t know who, on what level — have let me down, and I think they have behaved disgracefully, and it’s for them to pay,” he said. “And I think, frankly, that I’m the best person to see it through.”
While the elder Mr. Murdoch has long had the reputation of being a hands-on manager, pressing for and savoring the scoops scored by the newspapers he had always felt were the soul of his media empire, he said in his testimony that in the case of The News of the World, he had no knowledge of the specifics of what was going on.
He did not know, for example, that his company had paid confidential out-of-court settlements of £600,000 and £1 million to two victims of phone hacking. Nor, he said, did he know that the company was paying the legal fees of Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator under contract to The News of the World who was convicted in 2007 of hacking into the phones of staff members of the royal family.
James Murdoch said he had not known about paying Mr. Mulcaire’s legal fees either, and was “as surprised as you are that some of these arrangements had been made.”
Funny thing. Stories about widespread hacking at The News of the World had appeared in many media outlets over the past couple of years, including the London Observer and the New York Times. Evidently the Murdoch’s don’t read any newspapers except their own. The applicable legal doctrine here is “willful ignorance” in a situation where a manager should have known what was going on. Considering the damage the Murdoch’s have done to the political discourse – and ethics -- in both England and the U.S., I can only wish that justice will be done. That will be sufficient.