LONDON -- By turns contrite and defiant, media magnate Rupert Murdoch apologized Thursday for the phone-hacking scandal that has tarnished his company but then blamed subordinates for covering up the problem and police for failing to investigate it properly.
"The buck stops with me," Murdoch said. "I failed. And I'm very sorry about that . . . It's going to be a blot on my reputation for the rest of my life."
Had he known the extent of hacking by the News of the World tabloid, he would have "torn the place apart, and we wouldn't be here today," Murdoch testified on his second day before a judicial inquiry into media ethics, which was spawned by the hacking scandal.
The Australian-born tycoon acknowledged that, as chairman of media giant News Corp., he hadn't bothered to delve into the issue himself when evidence of wrongdoing began emerging as early as 2006.
"You could feel the blast coming in the windows," Murdoch, 81, said in a London courtroom.
"I panicked. But I'm glad I did," he said. "All I can do is apologize to a lot of people, including all the innocent people in the News of the World who lost their jobs."
Three criminal investigations have begun as a result of the scandal; Scotland Yard says hundreds of people may have been the victims of illegal snooping by the News of the World. Dozens of journalists from the defunct paper and its sister tabloid, the Sun, have been arrested, although none has been charged.
Murdoch said he has spent "hundreds of millions of dollars" on the legal fallout and on cleaning up his newspapers to make sure such lapses don't happen again.
He denied that the cover-up went up to the highest echelons of News Corp.