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British PM David Cameron, Media Mogul Rupert Murdoch Face Parliament on Phone-Hacking Scandal

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British Prime Minister David Cameron is facing questions from lawmakers today on his handling of the widening News International phone-hacking scandal implicating the British police and top government officials. Cameron’s appearance comes one day after an unprecedented hearing that saw media mogul Rupert Murdoch testify before British lawmakers for the first time. Murdoch expressed regret for what he called “sickening and horrible invasions” of privacy committed by his company, but refused to accept responsibility. His son, James Murdoch, and former News International executive Rebekah Brooks also testified. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: British Prime Minister David Cameron is facing questions from lawmakers today on his handling of the widening phone-hacking scandal involving the Murdoch media empire and the British police. Shortly before Cameron appeared before Parliament, a new government report was issued that concluded Rupert Murdoch’s News International “deliberately” tried to block a Scotland Yard criminal investigation into phone hacking at Murdoch’s News of the World.

Prime Minister Cameron has come under intense questioning today for his ties to Andy Coulson, the former reporter for News of the World who was arrested earlier this month on corruption and phone-hacking charges. Up until January, Coulson served as Cameron’s communications chief.

British opposition leader Ed Miliband opened the questioning of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

ED MILIBAND: The Prime Minister’s conflict of interest had real effects. The Metropolitan Police commissioner resigned on Sunday. The Prime Minister didn’t talk about the reasons for his resignation, but the House must talk about it. Sir Paul Stephenson was trapped. He was trapped between a Home Secretary angry at not being told about the hiring of Mr. Coulson’s deputy, Neil Wallis, and Sir Paul’s belief, in his own words, that doing so would have compromised the Prime Minister, compromised him because of Mr. Coulson. And why did Sir Paul think that? Because his own deputy, John Yates, had been told by the Prime Minister’s chief of staff that the Prime Minister should be told nothing. So, Mr. Speaker, this catastrophic error of judgment, hiring Andy Coulson, hanging on for him too long, directly contributed to the position Sir Paul found himself in and his decision to resign.

So, my third question, Mr. Speaker, is: does the Prime Minister accept that his conflict of interest put the Metropolitan Police commissioner in an impossible position? So, three questions are about BSkyB, the warnings about Mr. Coulson that were consistently ignored, and about the Met commissioner. These and many other questions will have to be answered by the Prime Minister over the coming months.

He says that in hindsight—he says that in hindsight he made a mistake by hiring Mr. Coulson. He says that if Mr. Coulson lied to him, he would apologize. Mr. Speaker, that isn’t good enough, because people—it’s not about hindsight, Mr. Speaker. It’s not about whether Mr. Coulson lied to him. It is about all the information and warnings that the Prime Minister ignored. He was warned, and he preferred to ignore the warnings. So that the country can have the leadership we need, why doesn’t he do more—why doesn’t he do more than give a half-apology and provide the full apology now for hiring Mr. Coulson and bringing him into the heart of Downing Street?

SPEAKER: Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: What I would say to the right and old gentleman is, stop hunting feeble conspiracy theories and start rising to the level of events. Most of that was just a tissue of totally—I will try and answer every point, but it was—first of all, let me thank him for what he said about recalling Parliament. That is right. Let me thank him for what he said about Lord Leveson. I think he will do a good job. Let me thank him for what he said about the panel, which we sent the names to his office this morning.

I have to say, on most of the other questions, I feel he wrote the questions before he heard my statement today. He asks—he asks about the issue of—he asks about the issue of BSkyB. The cabinet secretary has said there was no breach of the ministerial code. You heard—you heard the evidence of Rebekah Wade yesterday saying there was not one single inappropriate conversation. And when it comes to setting out meetings with News Corporation, I have set out every single meeting since the last election. No, the right, honorable gentleman published a list this morning, but it does not go back to the last election. And indeed, when are we going to see the transparency from Tony Blair and from Gordon Brown?

AMY GOODMAN: British Prime Minister Cameron’s appearance today before an emergency session of Parliament came one day after an unprecedented parliamentary hearing that saw media mogul Rupert Murdoch testify before British lawmakers for the first time in 40 years. Murdoch categorically denied he was responsible for what he called, quote, “sickening and horrible invasions” of privacy committed by his company, and he expressed regret for his company’s involvement in the phone-hacking scandal. His son James Murdoch and former News International executive Rebekah Brooks also testified. When he was questioned by Labour MP Tom Watson, Rupert Murdoch repeatedly denied knowledge of any wrongdoing.

TOM WATSON: Mr. Murdoch, Sr., good afternoon, sir. You have repeatedly stated that News Corp. had a zero—has a zero tolerance to wrongdoing by employees. Is that right?


TOM WATSON: In October 2010, did you still believe it to be true, when you made your Thatcher speech and you said, “Let me be clear, we will be vigorous—we will vigorously pursue the truth, and we will not tolerate wrongdoing”?


TOM WATSON: So if you were not lying then, somebody lied to you. Who was it?

RUPERT MURDOCH: I don’t know. That is what the police are investigating, and we are helping them with.

TOM WATSON: But you acknowledge that you were misled.


TOM WATSON: Can I take you back to 2003? Are you aware that in March of that year, Rebekah Brooks gave evidence to this committee admitting paying police?

RUPERT MURDOCH: I am now aware of that. I was not aware at the time. I’m also aware that she amended that considerably very quickly afterwards.

TOM WATSON: Well, I think she amended it seven or eight years afterwards. But did you or anyone else—

RUPERT MURDOCH: Oh, I’m sorry.

TOM WATSON: Did you or anyone else at your organization investigate this at the time?


TOM WATSON: Can you explain why?

RUPERT MURDOCH: I didn’t know of it. I’m sorry. I’m—I—let me just say something. And this is not as an excuse. Maybe it’s an explanation of my laxity. The News of the World is less than one percent of our company. I employ 53,000 people around the world, who are proud and great and ethical and distinguished people, professionals in their right. And perhaps I’m—and I’m spread watching and appointing people, whom I trust, to run those divisions.

AMY GOODMAN: Rupert Murdoch answering questions yesterday of members of the British Parliament. The inquiry marked the first time Murdoch has faced questioning from British MPs in the 40 years he has owned several of Britain’s largest newspapers. He said it was, quote, “the most humble day of my life.” Murdoch maintained he had not been aware of any illegal activities at his News of the World, the national tabloid published by his company, the largest Sunday paper and one of the largest papers in the world. He denied responsibility for whatever occurred.

JIM SHERIDAN: Mr. Murdoch, do you accept that ultimately you are responsible for this whole fiasco?


JIM SHERIDAN: You are not responsible? Who is responsible?

RUPERT MURDOCH: The people that I trusted to run it, and then maybe the people they trusted.

JIM SHERIDAN: Can you name the people?

RUPERT MURDOCH: I worked with Mr. Hinton for 52 years, and I would trust him with my life.

JIM SHERIDAN: Are you satisfied that the cash payments that were made by the News Corporation companies to informants for stories were registered with the appropriate tax authorities?

RUPERT MURDOCH: I don’t know anything about that. Perhaps James could answer. I—

JIM SHERIDAN: If people were given money to—if people were given money in order to accomplish stories—

RUPERT MURDOCH: People were given money to…?

JIM SHERIDAN: In order to get stories. Was that—did you notify the appropriate tax authorities about this?

JAMES MURDOCH: All of our financial—all of our financial affairs and—are, as a public company, are transparent, are audited. The tax jurisdictions that the company works in all around the world are worked with transparently and thoroughly. Tax compliance is an important—is an important priority for any business, and we comply—and the company complies with the laws.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Rupert Murdoch’s son, James Murdoch.

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