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8:50pm UK, Thursday April 26, 2012
Rupert Murdoch has told the Leveson Inquiry that there was a cover-up at the News Of The World to hide the scale of phone hacking.
The News Corporation boss said he and other senior executives were not informed, misinformed and “shielded” from what was going on at the paper, suggesting the cover-up was instigated by “one or two people” at the now-defunct tabloid.
He did not name the individuals concerned, but the News Of The World’s former legal manager Tom Crone later said an unnamed lawyer referred to by Mr Murdoch could “only” refer to him, and said the claims were untrue.
In a statement, Mr Crone said: “(Rupert Murdoch’s) assertion that I ‘took charge of a cover-up’ in relation to phone-hacking is a shameful lie.
Tom Crone has hit back saying Rupert Murdoch’s ‘attack’ is ‘wholly wrong’
“The same applies to his assertions that I misinformed senior executives about what was going on and that I forbade people from reporting to Rebekah Brooks or to James Murdoch.
“It is perhaps no coincidence that the two people he has identified in relation to his cover-up allegations are the same two people who pointed out that his son’s evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee last year was inaccurate.
“The fact that Mr Murdoch’s attack on (former NOTW editor) Colin Myler and myself may have been personal as well as being wholly wrong greatly demeans him.”
Mr Murdoch was appearing for his second day of evidence at the inquiry into media standards.
Mr Murdoch has previously said he was “shocked and appalled” by the allegations of phone hacking and was “determined to put things right”.
Giving evidence on Thursday, he apologised for the failings of the Sunday tabloid and accepted the buck stopped with him.
The 81-year-old said he feels responsible for the hacking scandal at the newspaper, saying it was a “serious blot” on his reputation.
Mr Murdoch also said he wished he had stepped in earlier to shut the tabloid down.
Asked by counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay QC where the “cover-up” emanated from, Mr Murdoch replied: “I think from within the News Of The World.
“There were one or two very strong characters there who I think had been there many, many years and were friends of the journalists.
“The person I am thinking of was a friend of the journalists, drinking pal, and was a clever lawyer and forbade them… or there have been statements reporting that this person forbade people to go and report to Mrs (Rebekah) Brooks or James (Murdoch).
“That is not to excuse it on our behalf at all, I take it extremely seriously that that situation had arisen.”
Mr Murdoch with a copy of the News Of The World in 1968
Mr Murdoch admitted he had not paid close enough attention to the tabloid and apologised for what happened, and to the staff who lost their jobs when he closed the newspaper.
“I have to admit that some newspapers are closer to my heart than others, but I also have to say that I failed. And I am very sorry about it.”
However, he also said he wishes he had closed the NOTW “years ago” and replaced it with a Sunday edition of the Sun newspaper.
Later, he said the NOTW – which, in 1969, was the first British newspaper he bought – was “an aberration, and it’s my fault”.
The tabloid was closed down last July after reports that the murdered teenager Milly Dowler’s voicemail had been hacked.
He said when this story surfaced, it could not be ignored, and closing the tabloid down had been a very quick decision.
“(The Dowler case) made people all over the country aware of this… You could feel the blast coming in the window almost.
“And I would say it succinctly, I panicked. But I am glad I did.”
On Wednesday, Mr Murdoch described his relations with senior politicians – and sparked a row over whether Gordon Brown “declared war” on News International.
The former prime minister said the “serious allegation” was “wholly wrong”, and called on Mr Murdoch to “correct his account” when he resumed giving evidence.
But at the start of proceedings on Thursday, Mr Murdoch told the inquiry: “As for the conversation, which he’s denied, I said that very carefully under oath, and I stand by every word of it.”
Away from the inquiry, the Culture, Media and Sport committee will finally publish its long-awaited report on phone hacking on May 1.
It was due many weeks ago and the delay reflects how MPs have struggled to come to an agreement.
:: Below: Replay Sky News political correspondent Sophy Ridge’s updates and analysis of Mr Murdoch’s second day of evidence.