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Top 10 Moments from the 'News of the World' Hearings

[Guest post by Gabriel Debenedetti]

This morning’s News Corp parliamentary hearing in London boasted more than its fair share of explosive moments, from the absurd to the slightly frightening. As Rupert Murdoch appeared old and occasionally hard-of-hearing, his son James seemed both shrewd and uncompromising. Up next was the reviled Rebekah Brooks, who came across as fatigued and unsympathetic. With the hearings fresh in our minds, TNR brings you the top ten moments from the proceedings:

10. Rupert deflects: The hearings were rife with opportunities for Rupert and James Murdoch to accept responsibility for News Corps’s indiscretions, but they chose to deflect instead. One prime example: MP Tom Watson asked Rupert “at what point did you discover that criminality was endemic” at News International, and Rupert responded by telling Watson, “endemic is a very hard word." 

9. Piers Morgan tweets: CNN host and former News of the World editor Piers Morgan got involved when MP Louise Mensch mentioned that Morgan’s book contained admissions of phone-hacking. Morgan quickly responded via Twitter, saying, among other things, “Complete nonsense. Just read the book.”

8. Brooks calls NotW’s actions “horrific” and “abhorrent”: Though she did not to accept culpability for criminal activity, Brooks did call The News of the World’s phone hacking both “horrific” and “abhorrent,” and she apologized for the paper’s actions.

7. Deny, deny, deny: This one isn’t a single event, precisely because the Murdochs and Brooks spent the bulk of the hearing denying any knowledge of any wrongdoing whatsoever—“willful ignorance” became a key term of the hearings quickly. The strategy of consistent denial was obvious, but the MPs were unable to prove the News Corp trio wrong.

6. Rupert says he’s out of touch: A prime example of the “I don’t know what’s going on” excuse, Murdoch maintained that he is “not really in touch,” and that most of his time with newspapers is spent at the Wall Street Journal, not his British properties. He employs 53,000 people, he insisted, so it is impossible for him to know what they are doing at all times (or, it seems, at any time).

5. Rupert defends Singapore: While riffing on the “openness” of various countries, Murdoch turned to Singapore, a nation with notoriously brutal disciplinary and censorship practices, and called it “the most open and clear society in the world.”

4. Rupert defends British “openness”: Explaining that British investigative journalism is more effective than its counterpart across the pond, Murdoch insisted, investigative journalism “does lead to a more transparent society, and I believe we are a better society because of that, and we are an even more open society than the United States.”

3. Brooks plays the victim: Former News International head Rebekah Brooks, who was arrested on Sunday, apparently tried to play the sympathy card by reminding the MPs grilling her that her phone, too, had been hacked by private investigator Glen Mulcaire. Needless to say, the pity play didn’t work.

2. Rupert goes humble: During the early stages of the hearings, the elder Murdoch interrupted his son to tell the audience that “this is the most humble day of my life”—which was not difficult for many commentators to believe, given the unapologetic history of the “genocidal tyrant.” Murdoch reiterated this sentiment at the end of the hearing.

1. Rupert almost gets creamed: As the hearings dragged on well past the scheduled ending point, and both James and Rupert had repeated the party line (“we know nothing”) exhaustively, an intruder (British comedian Jonnie Marbles, it seems) hopped up and tried to hit the patriarch with a paper plate full of shaving cream. He was quickly tackled, as both James and—more impressively—Wendi Murdoch jumped to the patriarch’s defense. The hearings were suspended, and Rupert walked away looking far more sympathetic than he had just minutes before. When they got back, MP Tom Watson’s response was to praise Wendi’s “very good left hook.”