Calling it “the most humble day of my life,” Rupert Murdoch — unfazed by a foam pie attack in the British Parliament — apologized Tuesday for crimes that have rocked his media empire and the government. However, he refused to resign as CEO of News Corp., saying the fault lay with staff who “betrayed” him.
“I’m the best person to clean this up,” Murdoch insisted.
The media mogul defended his record and that of his son, James, and said he could not know everything that his 53,000 employees did.
James, 38, News Corp.’s deputy chief operating officer, sat beside him before Parliament’s media committee, interjecting on occasion as his 80-year-old father hesitated to give answers on what he knew — and when — of criminality at the now-defunct News of the World newspaper.
“I want [the victims] to know the depth of my regret for the horrible invasions into their lives,” Rupert Murdoch said. “I intend to work tirelessly to merit their forgiveness.”
Murdoch said there was nothing to suggest his reporters had hacked the phones of 9/11 victims.
“We have no evidence of that at all,” he said.
The hearing briefly turned to violence and farce when a man rose from the public seating of the packed committee room and tried to hit the elder Murdoch with a paper plate of white foam.
The pie attack and the emotional apologies may temper some of the fury aimed at a man who has been courted and feared by British leaders for decades.
“You couldn’t make this stuff up,” said Andrew Hawkins, chairman of polling company ComRes. “It could have turned the whole situation around for them.”
A convincing performance could put the spotlight heavily on embattled Prime Minister David Cameron, who appointed a former editor of News of the World as his spokesman despite a 2007 phone-hacking case.
Rebekah Brooks, who resigned on Friday as chief executive of News International, apologized for the scandal and denied knowing the private investigators at the heart of the allegations.