Heads are rolling in the News of the World hacking scandal aftermath. As they should be.
Several editors and London police officials have resigned. More are undoubtedly on the way. A former NoTW reporter-turned-whisteblower who suffered from drug and alcohol addictions has now tragically turned up dead — compounding a global media tragedy that has shaken countless murder victims’ families, terror victims’ families, celebrities, and politicians whose cell phones were allegedly illegally rifled through in pursuit of salacious gossip and tabloid fodder.
News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch, his son James Murdoch, and newly-resigned and arrested NoTW editor-in-chief Rebekah Brooks are testifying before Parliament this morning as I write. CSPAN-3 is carrying the proceedings live here.
As a proud Fox News contributor for the past 10 years, I have come to News Corp.’s defense countless times and will continue to do so when critics distort the facts and wage unfair attacks.
This is not one of those times. There is no defense for this godawful fiasco.
Rupert Murdoch started at the hearing this morning by gently commenting that this is the “most humble moment” of his life. As it should be.
But saying it and showing it are two entirely different things. Just a few days ago, he was smiling broadly with disgraced editor Brooks, calling her his “first priority.” Asked about the comment at the Parliament hearing this morning, Murdoch suggested he didn’t actually say that because there were many microphones shoved in his face — but the backtracked when asked if he was asserting he was misquoted.
Yes, the police failed to do their jobs and apparently conspired to whitewash the voicemail hackings. But blaming Scotland Yard somehow as worse perpetrators than the company’s sanctioned hackers — as the News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal editorial board did yesterday — is sheer madness.
While the Murdochs have repeated their apologies at the hearing this morning, there is clearly a lack of contrition in at least one editorial boardroom of the News Corp. That needs to change.
Hacking is a serious crime and grave privacy invasion. PERIOD.
Yes, it is painful to see a great media champion/entrepreneur and a great media empire — of which NoTW was just a tiny sliver — under fire. The glee and double standards of News Corp. haters on both sides of the pond are hard to stomach.
But there is no one to blame for this other than those in News Corp. who let the scandal fester, and whose inaction handed critics all the ammunition they are firing now. These are the lumps and now every single rank-and-file employee and contributor at News Corp. is being forced to suffer them.
Rupert Murdoch told the Parliament hearing panel that he “can’t imagine” the illegal hackings took place in the U.S. But at least one victim — actor Jude Law — has alleged his phone was hacked while in New York.
And now, one of the Parliament questioners this morning has just raised the appalling possibility of computer hackings as well as phone hackings.
The failure to address the scandal in a timely, vigorous manner has put everyone associated with News Corp. at risk of retaliation hackings.
ANY and EVERY other newspaper higher-up or Scotland Yard brass who knew about the NoTW privacy invasions, signed off on them, looked the other way, or covered it up should be held accountable in a court of law.
News consumers in the U.K. and beyond will decide in the court of public opinion what price the rest of Rupert Murdoch’s news empire should pay — as well as other non-Murdoch U.K. tabloids with hacking clouds swirling overhead.
Media conglomerates have weathered a litany of plagiarism, fabrication, and circulation fraud over the history of modern journalism. I pray News Corp. can survive this one. Contrary to the company’s salivating detractors, government-imposed journalism ethics won’t prevent or solve the lapses. Competition in the media marketplace is the best check and balance we have.
UPDATE: 11:58 Eastern. As James Murdoch was testifying, an unknown assailant tried to reach the testimony table and apparently tried to attack Rupert Murdoch. His wife Wendi, who was sitting behind him, leaps up and reaches over to stop the unknown assailant.
The assailant had a pie and his face is smeared with whipped cream/shaving cream.
The assailant was “anarchist comedian” Jonnie Marbles.
And now…An MSNBC host actually complained that Wendi Murdoch was sitting TOO CLOSE to her husband and distracting viewers.
What a freak-show circus. The disruption shows just how manic Murdoch haters are. All the more reason to clean up the ethics mess — without excuses and moral equivalence — and get back to the quality journalism that is driving progressives mad.
Full Rupert Murdoch statement is here.
UPDATE: Rebekah Brooks now testifying — 12:48pm Eastern. Press and public barred now from proceedings after pie fiasco. She’s with her counsel and testimony will be severely limited as a result of her arrest late last week.
Update 3:34pm Eastern.
Another thing: There is a tedious discussion in the comments section to this blog post parsing the meaning of “hacking” in Clintonesque fashion.
Look, the Murdochs this morning condemned what happened. Intruding into someone’s PRIVATE voicemail, email, and phone communications to gather salacious, non-national security-related information is to be condemned. PERIOD. “Everybody does it” doesn’t cut it. Everyone who continues to do it in the UK tabloid world should be pursued and face all possible civil and criminal consequences.
I repeat: Blaming the victims for not changing their default passwords is appalling. It would be like blaming John Boehner for not doing enough to protect himself from the illegal eavesdroppers who taped his private phone conversations off a police scanner and leaked them to Democrat Rep. Jim McDermott, who handed them to the New York Times, which gleefully published portions of the purloined conversations. Remember that?