07.19.11

Murdoch's Judgment Day

News Corp. execs reportedly gave Rupert Murdoch good marks after Tuesday’s hearings, and stocks rallied. Andrew Sullivan, Howard Kurtz and more contributors weigh in.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament Wednesday that he wishes he had never have hired former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his communications director. Cameron stopped short, however, of admitting error, saying only that, knowing what he knows now, “I would not have offered him a job and I expect he would not have accepted.” He added that, if it is proven that Coulson knew about phone hacking, he will have been lied to and he will be open to criminal charges. In this case, Cameron said he would offer a “profound apology” to the British people.

In front of the British Parliament to defend his company on Tuesday, Rupert Murdoch confessed to having “the most humble day of my life.” But back at News Corp., execs reportedly gave him good marks. According to The New York Times, insiders at the media empire were relieved at the Murdochs’ performances, noting that there were no bombshell revelations that could dach is on his way out as CEO. And stock analysts saw good news too—shamage the company further. That should soothe rumors that Murdores rose 6 percent during the day, gaining back much of the losses from the past two weeks.

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The Buck Stops Elsewhere
By Howard Kurtz

Those expecting contrition will be disappointed. As Howard Kurtz notes, Rupert Murdoch took no personal responsibility at all during his appearance before Parliament.

It was a halting performance by Rupert Murdoch, who came to the British Parliament to offer apologies for the scandal that has rocked his company but, in the end, took no personal responsibility at all.

The blame, said the chief executive of News Corp., lies with “people I trusted to run it, and maybe people they trusted.”

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A ‘Culture of Endemic Criminality’
By Andrew Sullivan

In an “extraordinary session,” father and son fought for their reputations above all—and shed light on a deeply troubling tabloid culture. Read Andrew Sullivan’s live blog of the hearings.

James seemed to me like an earnest and crafty businessman fighting for his life, and Rupert looked like an extinct volcano fighting for his own reputation in the eyes of his own father. Call it hubris, pathos, or nemesis, it has revealed a British tabloid culture of endemic criminality. I cannot know the truth or otherwise of what both Murdochs said today. I do know that their statements of complete denial of any knowledge of any criminality after 2007 are rightly deemed suspicious until borne out by the full evidence.

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Rupert’s See-No-Evil Tactics
By Geoffrey Robertson

Murdoch claims not to know about any of News Corp.’s wrongdoings—a survival tactic that ultimately makes him look like an old man unfit to run a corporation, says Geoffrey Robertson.

“I only want to say this is the most humble day of my life,” interjected Rupert, early in the hearing. It was a carefully rehearsed sound bite, in a strategy which called for James to do most of the talking – in generalized management speak, in Donald Duck accent and at great length. In front of MPs who had no skill at cross-examination, this prevented much truth from emerging.

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Crouching Tiger, Flying Murdoch
By Melinda Liu

Rupert Murdoch’s third wife, Wendi Deng, thrust herself into the world spotlight when she smacked down a pie-throwing activist during Tuesday's Parliamentary hearings. But who is the woman behind the man under fire? Melinda Liu reports.

Don't mess with Wendi Deng, Murdoch's 43-year-old Chinese-born wife. For most of today's hearing, Wendi sat demurely behind her husband, appropriately loyal and supportive, her salmon-colored jacket and royal-blue blouse standing out in a sea of sober charcoal grey. But those who know Wendi were not surprised to see her leap into action to defend her man. When a man in a checkered shirt burst into the room—triggering alarm but seeming to paralyze many onlookers—and slammed a foam pie over Rupert Murdoch’s face, it was his third wife—who was a volleyball player in her youth—who went on the offensive. Wendi lunged toward the attacker, pushing down a grey-clad woman in the way with her left hand and using her right arm to smack the guy on the top of his head.

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The Man Who Pied Murdoch
By Jaimie Etkin

In the middle of Tuesday’s News of the World hearing, a man approached Rupert Murdoch with a pie in hand and was met by his wife Wendi Deng’s fist. More on Jonathan May-Bowles, the self-proclaimed activist behind the pie.

“It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat,” self-proclaimed activist Jon May-Bowles tweeted under his online alias Jonnie Marbles before approaching newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch with a plate full of shaving cream at Parliament on Tuesday. The “comedian, father figure and all-round nonsense” has been tweeting about Murdoch and the News of the World scandal since it broke and since 2009, he has kept up a blog called Anarch*ish* with the subheadline, “Because the state's not gonna smash itself.” May-Bowles was quick to take on the smashing, splatting, and the like on Tuesday when Murdoch sat before Parliament. The plaid-clad May-Bowles approached Murdoch with a pie in his hand, only to be met by the mogul’s wife, Wendi Deng’s, iron fist.

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News Corp.’s Damning Code of Conduct
By David A. Graham

The Murdochs spoke at their hearing about enforcing the company’s “code of conduct.” But a perusal of the code shows employees ignored protections already in place.

During his testimony before the Parliamentary Select Committee on Culture, Media, and Sport, James Murdoch repeatedly referred to News Corporation’s Code of Conduct, setting up the code as the cornerstone of ethics at the company, and potentially a “paragon”for journalists across the globe. His father, too, referred to it in a prepared statement that he was not allowed to read, saying, “let me be clear in saying: invading people's privacy by listening to their voicemail is wrong. Paying police officers for information is wrong. They are inconsistent with our codes of conduct and neither has any place, in any part of the company I run.”

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A Humbled Empire
By Alex Massie

Tuesday’s Parliamentary inquiry might not be the beginning of the end, but it’s no longer clear Rupert Murdoch’s family business can survive intact.

This was the man who made governments tremble? This the mightiest press baron of them all? The proprietor credited, by his enemies at least, with making and breaking governments whenever he felt like doing so? Surely not!

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Exonerated through Boredom?
By Michael Tomasky

In the short run, Rupert Murdoch may have helped himself with his testimony. But as Michael Tomasky argues, he may have made things more difficult down the road.

The specifics were a little opaque to me. I followed the testimony on the Guardian staff’s Twitter feed, which was a great way to watch because the staff obviously knows all the facts and could spot the little contradictions. I refer you to it for the details. I can best judge it as theater. On that front, the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks did some of what they needed to do in the hearing. They were boring, which was far and away job number one. Evil people aren’t supposed to be boring, so your average person will conclude that people this dull can’t really be evil. They appeared to be sincere and contrite, although of course “appear” is the key word there. Rupert’s opening apercu, when he cut off James to call this “the most humble” day of his life, was surprising, but was it really contrition? One can be humbled and still be mighty pissed off about it.

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Wendi to the Rescue

Rupert Murdoch’s son James supported his dad as they testified before members of Parliament, but it was wife Wendi who best rescued the aging media baron, writes Valerie Grove.

The deus ex machina of Greek tragedy—a sudden and unexpected event salvaging a hopeless situation—was a dramatic contrivance much embraced by playwrights. The one that sprang organically into the drama in the Wilton Room of Portcullis House in Westminster on Tuesday afternoon was highly effective: after more than two hours of interrogation of Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch, there was a cry of alarm, consternation on every face, everyone leaping to his feet and—best of all—the sight of Wendi Deng Murdoch in her chic pink jacket, seizing the assailant and whacking him audibly across the head.

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The Anguish of Murdoch’s Mom

Family matriarch Dame Elisabeth Murdoch said his News of the World purchase nearly “killed me,” and told her son of her concerns about invasion of privacy. By David Leser.

As Rupert Murdoch appeared before his British parliamentary interrogators yesterday, both a diminished and defiant figure, perhaps his longest-standing critic—and admirer—would have been thinking, I told you so. His mother, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, had, in fact, told him so 42 years ago when he bought the newspaper that would find itself at the center of an unprecedented political and media scandal on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Helayne Seidman

Rebekah Brooks' Distracting 'Do

The ex-CEO’s wild red mane at a Parliament hearing on Murdoch’s phone-hacking scandal was ballsy—and unwise—for someone under fire for allegedly defying laws, says Robin Givhan.

There’s a time when a wild mane of wavy auburn hair sends just the right message of breezy nonconformity and proud individuality, but when you’re trying to convince the world that you’re an above-board, by-the-rules, straitlaced sort of manager—who’s done nothing illegal—boho hair plays to your disadvantage.

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