Rupert Murdoch said on Thursday that there was a “cover up” over phone hacking at the News of the World tabloid but that it was kept hidden from him and senior executives in his media empire.
“There’s no question in my mind that, maybe even the editor but beyond that, someone took charge of a cover-up which we were victim to and I regret that,” the News Corp. boss told a press ethics inquiry in Britain.
Murdoch’s evidence on the second day at the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics came as pressure grew on Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to resign over claims his special adviser leaked details to News Corp. as it tried to take full control of pay-TV giant BSkyB.
Murdoch on Wednesday hit out at “lies” that he used his ties to a succession of British leaders for commercial gain.
“I’ve never asked a prime minister for anything,” he told the inquiry in London, which was set up last year in response to the phone-hacking scandal at Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the Worldnewspaper.
“It is a complete myth that I used the influence of The Sun (his market-leading British tabloid) or its supposed political power to get favourable treatment.”
The Australian-born tycoon has also denied discussing the controversial BSkyB deal with Prime Minister David Cameron, and rejected rumours he was unhappy with Cameron for setting up the judge-led inquiry into the press.
Hunt — who had the responsibility for the decision about whether the BSkyB takeover should be allowed to go ahead — has rejected calls from the opposition to resign.
“This is not the time to jump on a political bandwagon. I have strictly followed due process throughout,” Hunt said in a statement to lawmakers during a stormy session of parliament on Wednesday.
The 168-year-old News of the World tabloid was forced to shut down after a wave of revelations that its staff illegally accessed the voicemail messages of a murdered teenage girl and crime victims as well as dozens of public figures.
News Corp. has paid out millions of pounds in compensation and more than 40 people have been arrested over hacking and over alleged illegal payments to public officials by staff at the News of the World and The Sun.
Murdoch’s testimony is his highest profile appearance in Britain since he appeared before a parliamentary committee in July last year, when a protester attacked him with a foam pie.