Jul. 19th, 2011

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With a wife like this, who needs a Wackenhut?

Some kind of violence or mishap has interrupted the live coverage of the Murdoch testimony. The last thing I saw was Wendi, nee Deng Wende, rising to hit someone along with others in a crowd.
I suspect someone was heading toward Rupe, seated at the table in front of her.

Jane Martinson reports from the hearing: "He was sitting four rows back, calmly walked up with a plate of shaving foam - smacked it in Rupert's face - Wendi intervened."

Room has been cleared, Rupe laved, and inquisition continues.

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I only caught the last and most xciting part of ITN's live stream of the Murdoch hearings in the House of Commons. It much amuses me as you will have guessed, to have the freedom to pit my nose for news against the others, and so, before I go and read the extensive live blog transcripts at the Guardian, I am going to lay down my impressions.

I was impressed by James' demeanor. He acts forthright very well. His stepping in to clarify the bumptious and yet out-of-it remarks of the Wendinator's shar-pei, his honorable father, the artist formerly known as Rupert Murdoch, tells at least half of the tale. (You were wondering why News Corp. is looking into China as its next venue? Now you know.)

What I thought was monstrous was how James, who is clearly the only compos mentis person present, kept referring to a sewage of events as "emerging evidence", as if he were a cop investigating something far away for which he bore absolutely no responsibility. I do think it's the only way he could have played it. But it was bad.
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The Guardian's insta-pundit review of the Murdochs' testimony:

In brief, here was Andrew Sparrow's view of the Murdochs:

Rupert Murdoch

"Most humble day of my career" was the soundbite he gave us, but humility wasn't really what anyone will remember. It will be the short, gruff answers, delivered as if he was not entirely clear what had been going on. Was it because he's 80 and he can't hear very well any more, or was it because he didn't really want to engage? Probably a mixture of the two. But he did seem unflappable when the "foam hacker" struck. Tough bugger.

James Murdoch

Evasive, but in a way that was smooth and articulate. He kept telling the MPs how good their questions were and launching into long answers that weren't always particularly illuminating.


All in all, I think they set themselves up to be fired as incompetent by the boards of News Corp., and as active in a conspiracy to cover up crimes in any future legal action by the U.S. Department of Justice and the British Serious Fraud Office. Rupe's saying he only paid attention to what happens at the Wall Street Journal is the flaming rocket Eric Holder will see heading toward his backside.
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Rebekah Brooks, the flame-haired editrix, basically said she was shocked, shocked to discover her managing editor was paying detectives to hack phones.

I didn't catch her testimony, only the parting shot, in which she asked the committee to invite her back when the charges against her have been settled. This sounds like extortion to me.
Brooks is asked if she has anything to add.

She wants to make a request to the committee that, when she is free from the legal constraints that she says she is under today, they will invite her back to answer "in a more fulsome way".

The answer from committee chairman John Whittingdale is yes. Her appearance in front of the committee is over now.


Again, why would a reponsible executive promote to the highest reaches of the company someone who claims not to know what the managing editor of her paper was doing, and threatens to expose others the minute she has stopped defending herself against hacking and police bribery charges, implying she is singing like a bird to the police?
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Guardian insta-pundit #2:

Perhaps Rupert Murdoch doesn't read the Guardian. Whatever his newspaper reading habits are, one thing is clear; the great old man of newspapers looked hopelessly out of touch in the early stages of the father-and-son grilling in front of MPs today.

There were the marathon pauses; the one-word answers; the look, again and again of mystification. He tried, several times, to defer to James, who clearly had plenty of answers at his fingertips. His hand beat the desk several times to emphasise the occasional long answer. But above all, Rupert Murdoch knew nothing about phone hacking – and he didn't look like he was acting either.

Rupert did one to make one point clear, though, making an ill-timed intervention at the beginning of the hearing, interrupting his son's flow. "This is the most humble day of my life," the patriarch interjected. We understood the message: show contrition – yet it was so artlessly done, it showed nothing of the sort.

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These are the lawyers who sat on the incriminating stash of NotW e-mails (I believe) for four years. Rupe and James frequently testified today that they relied on the advice of counsel to assert that the investigation was over and there was no further "emerging evidence". Harbottle and Lewis quickly issued this denial:

Harbottle & Lewis said in a statement issued this evening:

News International representatives referred to our advice in their statements today before the Parliamentary Select Committee, both as a result of questioning and on their own account.

We asked News International to release us from our professional duties of confidentiality in order that we could respond to any inaccurate statements or contentions and to explain events in 2007.

News International declined that request, and so we are still unable to respond in any detail as to our advice or the scope of our instructions in 2007, which is a matter of great regret.

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Labour MP Farrelly, a former reporter/editor for the Observer, queries Trix:

Paul Farrelly is asking about Jon Chapman, the legal adviser who recently left the company. Did Chapman asks Harbottle & Lewis to sit on the evidence suggesting wrong-doing.

Brooks says Harbottle & Lewis are a respected legal firm. Chapman was a respected lawyer. He would not have done that.

Q: Chapman seems to be the fall guy? Did he act alone?

Brooks says Chapman would say, if asked, that when they looked at the file, they would have felt that the Harbottle & Lewis letter saying there was no evidence of wrongdoing was correct.

Q: Did you ask other editors in 2009 not to give the phone hacking story much play?

Brooks says she would have discussed industry matters with people like [Daily Mail editor] Paul Dacre. But she does not recall specifically phoning him up to discuss this.

(That seems to be a reference to this story.)


One basic defense, emanating apparently from Rupe himself, is that all the British newspapers hack phones and bribe police. Dacre has been told, in no uncertain terms, that Rupe was not going to be the only dirty dog. How this exonerates you from illegal activity, and also encourages your rival not to cut your balls off, I do not understand.

Brooks repeatedly made threatening reference to Farrelly's former employment as a reporter, suggesting that he or his former employer were also guilty of illegal dark arts.

One lawyer said Farrelly landed "the killer punch", getting the Murdochs to admit they're now paying the legal fees for the detective whose 11,000 pages of notes of phones hacked on behalf of NotW lay in garbage bags on Scotland Yard's evidence shelves for -- six years?
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As I predicted, US shareholders and execs at News Corp. are watching Rupe's testimony closely. They're discussing retiring him as CEO, and letting him stay on as chair, promoting Carey to CEO.http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-18/news-corp-said-to-consider-naming-chase-carey-as-ceo-suceeding-murdoch.html

Meanwhile, the independent directors of News Corp. are lawyering up.

Bloomberg pundits parse the Murdochs' testimony, saying stock rallied, James has positioned himself well for succession, and that we should buy News Corp. stock.

Who thinks James was gunning for succession in that appearance? After all the speculation about how he's going to have to step up to possible criminal charges for the L700K settlement payout to one of the hackers.


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