Murdoch 'shaken' in meeting with murdered girl's family

Top executives Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton both resign

CBC News Posted: Jul 15, 2011 5:18 AM ET Last Updated: Jul 15, 2011 10:18 PM ET

Close

Murdoch apologizes 3:31

Media titan Rupert Murdoch met with the family of a murdered girl at the centre of the phone hacking scandal, apologizing many times for the actions of journalists at his paper, a family lawyer said.

Mark Lewis, the lawyer for the Milly Dowler's family, said Murdoch issued a full and sincere apology during his private meeting. Murdoch said that what happened at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid was not in keeping with the standards set out when his own father entered the media industry, Lewis said.

220-dowler-cp00936556

Milly Dowler, 13, was first reported missing in 2002. A nightclub doorman was convicted of murdering her. (Surrey Police/Associated Press)

Lewis said Murdoch was "very humbled, he was very shaken and he was very sincere." He held his head in his hands many times while apologizing.

He said the Dowlers told Murdoch that his newspapers should lead the way forward in setting a standard of honesty and decency in journalism.

Murdoch's News Corp. has been in crisis mode since a rival newspaper reported last week that the News of the World had hacked into the phone of teenage murder victim Milly Dowler in 2002 and may have impeded a police investigation into the 13-year-old's disappearance.

His meeting came just hours after News International CEO Rebekah Brooks resigned, saying that remaining in her post has made her the "focal point of the debate" and a distraction.

"At News International, we pride ourselves on setting the news agenda for the right reasons. Today we are leading the news for the wrong ones," Brooks wrote in an email to colleagues Friday that was released by News International.

P.O.V.

Your comments on Rebekah Brooks's resignation:

"If she knew nothing (highly unlikely in my opinion) she is still responsible for creating that culture of greed, sensationalism and ruthlessness in that company," writes Stephan19.

"This woman is clearly not in touch with reality," added bobinbc. "She doesn't seem to understand the importance of her role in what these news organizations had become."

Read more comments in our Community blog.

"The reputation of the company we love so much, as well as the press freedoms we value so highly, are all at risk."

Brooks's resignation comes after days of mounting pressure from politicians and shareholders of Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper operations.

On Thursday, Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., and his son, James, changed their minds and said they would testify  before a parliamentary panel probing the scandal over phone hacking that started with The News of the World, and forced Murdoch to withdraw a $12-billion US bid to assume full control of Britain’s biggest satellite broadcaster.

'Right and responsible action'

Brooks was editor of News of the World between 2000 and 2003, at the time of some of the hacking, but has said she knew nothing about it. She has been in charge of News International's four British newspapers since 2007.

"I have believed that the right and responsible action has been to lead us through the heat of the crisis. However, my desire to remain on the bridge has made me a focal point of the debate," she wrote to her colleagues Friday.

"This is now detracting attention from all our honest endeavours to fix the problems of the past."

Les Hinton, the chief executive of Dow Jones & Co. and publisher of The Wall Street Journal, also resigned on Friday, becoming the latest News Corp. executive casualty in the phone-hacking and bribery scandal, and the first major figure from the company’s American operations.

Hinton served as executive chairman of News International, the British unit that oversaw News Corp.'s U.K. tabloid newspapers at the heart of the scandal for 12 years. A member of the board of The Associated Press, Hinton became head of Dow Jones in December 2007.

He said in a statement that he believed the misconduct was limited to former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman.

"I told the committee there had never been any evidence delivered to me that suggested the conduct had spread beyond one journalist," he said in a statement. "If others had evidence that wrongdoing went further, I was not told about it."

Guardian apologizes

The Guardian newspaper apologized on Friday for "incorrectly reporting" how Murdoch's The Sun tabloid had obtained the confidential medical records of the son of former British prime minister Gordon Brown.

"In fact, the information came from a different source and the Guardian apologizes for its error," The paper said in its corrections column.

The Guardian had said on its website that the Sun had illegally obtained details from the medical records of Brown's four-year-old son Fraser, who has cystic fibrosis.

The Sun had vigorously rebutted the claim, saying it got its information from another parent, so far unidentified, allegedly motivated by a hope of raising awareness of the disease.

Brooks, 43, said she needs to concentrate on "correcting the distortions and rebutting the allegations about my record as a journalist, an editor and executive."

She said her resignation gives her time to give her full co-operation to inquiries, police investigations and an appearance at the British parliamentary committee investigating the phone hacking allegations.

News International to apologize in U.K. papers

In a statement following Brooks's resignation, James Murdoch said that News International will run ads in major British newspapers this weekend "to apologize to the nation for what has happened."

"We will follow this up in the future with communications about the actions we have taken to address the wrongdoing that occurred," he wrote.

"The company has made mistakes," Murdoch wrote. "It is not only receiving appropriate scrutiny, but is also responding to unfair attacks by setting the record straight."

A copy of the apology ad was released, which says that News International is "deeply sorry for the hurt" caused to the victims of the scandal, adding "we regret not acting faster to sort things out." The full page ad is signed by Murdoch.

The company closed the 168-year-old News of the World and abandoned a bid for control of the lucrative British Sky Broadcasting network in a so far fruitless attempt to halt the crisis.

The Murdochs faced more pressure Thursday with the arrest of former News of the World executive editor Neil Wallis — the ninth person involved with the News of the World to be detained by police probing phone hacking.

Jude Law takes legal action

In a statement Friday, News International said allegations made by Jude Law in a legal action against The Sun newspaper "have no foundation whatsoever" and vowed to vigorously fight his claim.

Law claims the Murdoch-owned tabloid hacked into voicemails for stories about his private life.

Murdoch's News International strongly denies the claim, accusing the actor of "a deeply cynical and deliberately mischievous attempt" to drag The Sun into the hacking scandal that brought down the News of the World.

Law's legal representatives, Atkins Thomson, declined to give details of the claim, which it said "will be considered by the court in due course."

Law is also suing the News of the World, with that case due to be heard next year.

With files from The Associated Press

Stay Connected with CBC News

Must Watch