Murdoch Apologizes to British Phone-hacking Victims

Posted July 15th, 2011 at 2:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Media magnate Rupert Murdoch is apologizing to the phone-hacking victims of the tabloid News of the World he shut down last weekend.

Murdoch’s British newspaper operation said Friday that over the next several days it will run advertisements in major British newspapers signed by him. In them, he will apologize for the “serious wrongdoing” and say he is “deeply sorry for the hurt” caused by his journalists’ widespread phone-hacking and payments to police for information.

As his News Corporation announced the public apology, the 80-year-old Murdoch visited at a London hotel with the parents of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old British murder victim whose phone was hacked by News of the World. A lawyer for the family described Murdoch as “very humbled” and “very shaken” as he offered his apology.

The Murdoch apologies came on a day that one of his key lieutenants resigned amid the firestorm that has engulfed his company, forcing him to shut the tabloid and then abandon efforts to push through a multi-billion dollar bid for British Sky Broadcasting, a satellite television company.

Rebekah Brooks, a former editor of News of the World, stepped down as chief executive of News International, News Corporation’s British subsidiary. In a statement, Brooks said her “desire to remain on the bridge” is drawing attention from the company’s “honest endeavors” to fix the problems of the past. She will be replaced by Tom Mockridge, the head of News Corporation’s Sky Italia television unit.

Brooks has agreed to testify before the British parliament next week about the phone hacking and police bribery scandal. Murdoch and his son James, who heads News Corporation’s international operations, will also testify before parliament next week, after initially refusing to do so.

In the U.S., the Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun a probe into whether News Corporation employees tried to hack into the phones of victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and their families, or tried to bribe police for information.

The probe was started after Congressman Peter King, who represents the New York district where many of the 3,000 victims of the terrorist attacks lived, asked the FBI to investigate.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters in Australia Friday the Justice Department has received a number of requests from lawmakers to look into the allegations involving News Corporation, and is “progressing in that regard” through the appropriate law enforcement agencies.

Murdoch’s company has several lucrative news and entertainment outlets in the U.S., including the country’s top business newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, and a major television news outlet, Fox News Channel.

On Thursday, British police arrested a ninth suspect in connection with the phone-hacking scandal. He is Neil Wallis, the 60-year-old former executive editor of the News of the World who left the paper in 2009 and is now a public relations executive. Wallis was held on “suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications.”

Wallis was the deputy editor of the newspaper under Andy Coulson from 2003 to 2007. Coulson, the communications director for British Prime Minister David Cameron from 2007 until earlier this year, was arrested in the investigation earlier this month.