On Tape, Murdoch Criticizes Hacking Investigators, Broadcaster Says

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LONDON -- Embroiled in inquiries into the behavior of journalists and executives working for his newspapers here, the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch faced new questions on Thursday after a television broadcast of what appeared to be a clandestine recording of him criticizing the police investigation of Britain's phone hacking scandal as "totally incompetent."

In the recording, apparently made in March during a meeting with journalists at Mr. Murdoch's tabloid The Sun, Mr. Murdoch is heard saying of the investigation: "It's a disgrace. Here we are, two years later, and the cops are totally incompetent."

"The idea that the cops then started coming after you, kick you out of bed, and your families, at 6 in the morning is unbelievable," he said, dismissing the investigation as "the biggest inquiry ever, over next to nothing."

Channel 4 News, which broadcast the recording, said it had been obtained by an investigative Web site called Exaro. The channel said the tone of the remarks seemed markedly at odds with Mr. Murdoch's public insistence that he felt "humbled" by the hacking scandal.

Since July 2011, Mr. Murdoch's newspaper outpost in Britain has been under close scrutiny by Parliament, by a separate judicial inquiry and by the police, who are investigating accusations of illicit phone tapping, corruption and other misbehavior, particularly at The News of the World, a Sunday tabloid that is now closed. Scores of former Murdoch employees have been arrested as the scandal raised questions about hidden ties among the news media, the police and the political elite.

In the recording, Mr. Murdoch also referred to a decision by his company's management and standards committee -- referred to in the recording as the M.S.C. -- to hand over a trove of e-mails and other material to investigators, a move he described as a mistake.

"It was a mistake, I think. But in that atmosphere, at that time, we said, 'Look, we are an open book, we will show you everything.' And the lawyers just got rich going through millions of e-mails," he said, promising to support journalists caught up in the investigation.

"I will do everything in my power to give you total support, even if you're convicted and get six months or whatever," he said.

"You're all innocent until proven guilty," he said. "What you're asking is: What happens if some of you are proven guilty? What afterward? I'm not allowed to promise you -- I will promise you continued health support -- but your jobs, I've got to be careful what comes out -- but, frankly, I won't say it, but just trust me."

Mr. Murdoch's News Corporation, based in New York, said in a statement, "No other company has done as much to identify what went wrong, compensate the victims, and ensure the same mistakes do not happen again."

"The unprecedented cooperation granted by News Corp. was agreed unanimously by senior management and the board, and the M.S.C. continues to cooperate under the supervision of the courts," the statement said. "Rupert Murdoch has shown understandable empathy with the staff and families affected and will assume they are innocent until and unless proven guilty."

Tom Watson, an opposition Labour Party legislator who has taken a lead in criticizing Mr. Murdoch, said he hoped that the police would now investigate Mr. Murdoch "about what he did know about criminality in his organization."

Some British news media analysts suggested that the fact that Mr. Murdoch's remarks had been recorded and leaked -- potentially turning tabloid eavesdropping tactics against the tycoon himself -- showed that not all of the Sun journalists attending the March meeting had been satisfied by his assurance of support.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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