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Rupert Murdoch hits back at 'unjustified and highly partisan' report


Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch has hit back after MPs branded him unfit to be in charge of a major media firm.

In a statement, News Corporation condemned the report by the Commons Culture Committee as ''unjustified and highly partisan''.

The highly contentious investigation into the News of the World phone-hacking scandal split the committee on party lines.

While members agreed unanimously that Mr Murdoch's media empire had misled their inquiry in a ''blatant fashion'', Tory MPs refused to support the report after Labour and the sole Liberal Democrat pushed through the criticism of Mr Murdoch by a vote of six to four.

Labour MP Tom Watson, who tabled the amendment, said he was disappointed that the Conservatives had been unwilling to sign up.

''These people corrupted our country. They brought shame on our police force and our Parliament. They lied, they cheated, blackmailed and bullied and we should all be ashamed when we think how we cowered before them for too long,'' he said.

But Conservative Louise Mensch said Mr Watson's insistence on inserting a conclusion that was ''wildly outside the scope'' of the inquiry had undermined the report's credibility.

''That will mean it will be correctly seen as a partisan report and will have lost a very great deal of its credibility, which is an enormous shame,'' she said.

Responding to the findings, News Corp admitted that the committee had highlighted ''hard truths''.

There had been ''serious wrongdoing'' at the News of the World, the company's response had been ''too slow and too defensive'', and some employees had misled the MPs in 2009.

''News Corporation regrets, however, that the Select Committee's analysis of the factual record was followed by some commentary that we, and indeed several members of the committee, consider unjustified and highly partisan,'' the statement went on.

''These remarks divided the members along party lines.''

In an email to News International staff last night, Mr Murdoch said: ''I recognise that for all of us - myself in particular - it is difficult to read many of the report's findings.

''But we have done the most difficult part, which has been to take a long, hard and honest look at our past mistakes.

''There is no easy way around this, but I am proud to say that we have been working hard to put things right.''

Mr Murdoch also disclosed that the company's Management and Standards Committee had completed its review of The Times, Sunday Times and The Sun.

He made clear that only one incident had been identified at the broadsheet publications - where an individual was disciplined for hacking the email of a police blogger.

However, he pointedly stopped short of providing the results from the investigation at the tabloid.

Mr Watson's amendment to the committee report stated: ''This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International.

''We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.''

The committee also split over findings that James Murdoch had shown ''wilful ignorance'' and that after its attempts at containment failed, the company had sought to protect him and other ''more senior figures''.

Meanwhile Les Hinton, former News International executive chairman and for many years Mr Murdoch's right-hand man, and Colin Myler, the former editor of the News of the World, both denied misleading the committee.

The report said Mr Hinton was ''complicit in the cover-up at News International'' over evidence he gave in 2009 about payments made to former royal correspondent Clive Goodman, who was jailed in 2007 for phone hacking.

It found that Mr Myler and Tom Crone, the now defunct paper's former legal manager, had given false answers in response to questions about their knowledge over the extent of phone hacking by other staff.

Mr Hinton described the committee's conclusions as ''unfounded, unfair and erroneous'', while Mr Myler said he stood by his evidence to the committee.

Mr Crone said he does ''not accept'' the allegations, adding that: ''I seem to be the subject of serious allegations which lack foundation.''

Despite the differences on the committee, it did agree - with only one Tory dissenter - it was ''simply astonishing'' that it took the Murdochs so long to realise the defence that phone hacking at the paper was down to ''one rogue reporter'' was untrue.

The committee said that despite the professed willingness of News International to assist its inquiries, it had failed to release documents which would have helped expose the truth.

It said the company ''repeatedly made misleading and exaggerated claims'' regarding the investigations it ''purportedly'' commissioned following the arrests of Mr Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

''The willingness of News International to sanction huge settlements and damaging wide-ranging admissions to settle civil claims over phone hacking before they reach trial reinforces the conclusion of our 2010 report that the organisation has, above all, wished to buy silence in this affair and to pay to make the problem go away,'' it said.