Looking frail and sometimes hesitant, but with flashes of the anger and passion for which he is known, Rupert Murdoch came before Parliament yesterday to apologise for phone hacking carried out by his bestselling British newspaper, describing it as "the most humble day of my career".
It felt like the eclipse of the Sun King. By the end of the three-hour session, MPs, television viewers and News Corp's board and investors had watched him struggling for words, seen his son reaching out to him with a comforting arm, and witnessed his wife leaping to rescue him from physical assault. As a family drama it had everything, including, ultimately, a passionate performance from the leading man.
Mr Murdoch tried to defend, explain and justify the actions of the company he has built up over the last half century and which now faces the greatest crisis in its history. In the process, he revealed details of his dealings with prime ministers, editors and his most senior lieutenants, and pledged to "work tirelessly" to earn the forgiveness of hacking victims.
The octogenarian was asked by Conservative MP Louise Mensch if he planned to resign. He found his voice. Some of his employees had "behaved disgracefully, betrayed me and the company and it's for them to pay". Refusing to stand down, he said: "I'm the best person to clean this up".
He appeared lost under questioning from Tom Watson, the Labour MP who has done most to penetrate the veil of secrecy that some at News International have attempted to throw around the scandal. He gave curt one-word responses and tried to emphasise his points by banging the desk.
News Corp's share price rose 6 per cent: some analysts said it was a positive response to what appeared to be the final moments of Rupert's reign at the top of the business. Others took the view that the MPs had failed to produce a coup de grâce.
"My company has 52,000 employees. I have led it for 57 years and I have made my share of mistakes," Mr Murdoch declared. "I have lived in many countries, employed thousands of honest and hard-working journalists, owned nearly 200 newspapers. I would like all the victims of phone hacking to know how completely and deeply sorry I am."
During intense and sometimes hostile questioning from MPs on the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, Mr Murdoch denied that the decision to close the News of the World was the result of an effort to save the company's chief executive, Rebekah Brooks. "We felt ashamed at what happened," said Mr Murdoch senior. "We had broken our trust with our readers."Reuse content