murdochs parliament_311 reuters.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Parbul TV)
LONDON - Rupert Murdoch told the British parliament on Tuesday that giving evidence on the phone-hacking and corruption scandal that is engulfing his global media empire was "the most humble day of my life".
RELATED:UK police arrest Murdoch ally Rebekah BrooksUK
police under scrutiny, Murdoch tries to damp fire
Sitting next to his son James, who opened the much-awaited proceedings in a committee room at Westminster by apologizing for the distress caused to victims of voicemail hacking, the 80-year-old magnate briefly interrupted:
apologizes over scandal, two lieutenants out
"I would just like to say one sentence: This is the most humble day of my life," the Australian-born chief executive of U.S.-based News Corp said.
He later said he was "shocked, appalled and ashamed" when he read two weeks ago about the case which has transformed the long-smoldering scandal into a matter that has shaken Britons' confidence not only in the press, but also in the police and in politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron.
But asked flat out if he considered himself personally responsible "for this fiasco", Murdoch replied simply: "No."
Asked who was he said: "The people that I trusted to run it, and then maybe the people they trusted."
Several people were ejected from the packed public area of the room as proceedings were beginning after holding up posters reading "Murdoch wanted for news crimes".
Later during questioning, Murdoch insisted that he had been misled when previously denying that phone hacking at his News of the World tabloid went beyond the case of a reporter who was jailed for the offense in 2007. Slapping the table in apparent frustration, he said the paper was only a small part of his business, suggesting he could not supervise it personally.
The newspaper, the country's biggest selling Sunday journal, was closed 10 days ago as a result of the hacking scandal.
Asked by name about one of the 10 journalists arrested this year by police probing the phone-hacking, he said: "Never heard of him." But he said: "We have broken our trust with our readers."
As the session before the lower house media committee got under way, the chairman rejected a request by James Murdoch, the 38-year-old heir apparent and chairman of British newspaper unit News International, to make an opening statement.
However, after a first question, the younger Murdoch began by offering an apology: "First of all I would just like to say how sorry I am and how sorry we are to particularly the victims of the illegal voicemail interceptions and to their families.
"It is a matter of great regret, of mine, of my father's, and everyone at News Corporation. These actions do not live up to the standards that our company aspires to everywhere around the world and it is our determination to put things right, to make sure these things do not happen again and to be the company that I know we have always aspired to be."
The two Murdochs sat side by side at a table facing the horseshoe of lawmakers asking their questions. Occasionally, the younger Murdoch attempted to break in to answer questions posed to his father. The elder Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng, sat behind him.Police come under fire
With a second British police chief quitting on Monday over the scandal, Cameron cut short a trade trip to Africa and was due to return in time for an emergency debate on Wednesday in parliament, which is delaying its summer recess.
Speaking in Lagos, Nigeria, before flying home as the committee hearing began, Cameron said he was committed, through new investigations, to addressing three key problems: "The wrongdoing in parts of the media and the potential that there is corruption in the police and ... the third ... which is the relationship between politicians and the media."
But he also signaled a desire to push the agenda away from a scandal that has dominated every debate for two full weeks:
"The British public want something else too," Cameron said.
"They don't want us to lose our focus on an economy that provides good jobs, on an immigration system that works for Britain, a welfare system that is fair for our people."
The Murdochs' appearance before parliament's media committee was expected to attract a television audience of millions, not only in Britain, but also notably in the United States, where Murdoch controls Fox television and the Wall Street Journal among other businesses.
"I want to feel the atmosphere in the room and actually witness history unfold," said Max Beckham, 21, from London as he lined up for one of the few public seats on offer. "This hearing could signal the end of Rupert Murdoch's reign."
Another eager witness in the public gallery, Canadian tourist Andy Thomson, 40, called it "the best show in town."