Rupert Murdoch knew about his papers’ bribes culture
By Ryan Chittum
In a blockbuster report, the UK site ExaroNews obtained a secret recording of Murdoch’s visit to his beleaguered paper at the height of the police investigation into wrongdoing there. It’s fair to say Murdoch is going to have some major headaches from this one.
RM: We’re talking about payments for news tips from cops: that’s been going on a hundred years, absolutely. You didn’t instigate it….
I remember when I first bought the News of the World, the first day I went to the office… and there was a big wall-safe… And I said, “What’s that for?”
And they said, “We keep some cash in there.”
And I said, “What for?”
They said, “Well, sometimes the editor needs some on a Saturday night for powerful friends. And sometimes the chairman [the late Sir William Carr] is doing badly at the tables, (laughter) and he helps himself…”
This outs Murdoch lying that he didn’t know about his newspapers bribing public officials for news until an internal investigation in the wake of the Milly Dowling Dowler scandal uncovered it. That’s not shocking. What’s truly stunning is that he would say it to a room full of journalists—each of whom has recording equipment at the ready.
I don’t think the “everybody did it” defense is going to work here.
There’s much more in the transcripts, including Murdoch trashing Scotland Yard and scoffing at the significance of the crimes.
But on the corruption angle, there’s this, in response to a question about whether Sun staffers convicted and jailed will still have News Corporation “support” (emphasis mine):
“I will do everything in my power to give you total support, even if you’re convicted and get six months or whatever,” he says.
“You’re all innocent until proven guilty. What you’re asking is: what happens if some of you are proven guilty? What afterwards? 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.”
This wink-wink stuff has been standard operating procedure for News Corporation throughout its crisis. It paid off Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman after their convictions and kept paying for their defense, leaving Parliament “with a strong impression that silence has been bought.” It paid off hacking victims Gordon Taylor and Max Clifford in a bid to prevent the scandal from breaking. It gave the Scotland Yard lead investigator who scotched the early probe a plum job as a Times columnist. Read the rest of the story at the Columbia Journalism Review.