Live Blog: Rupert Murdoch Hits Back in Leveson Testimony
Staff Writer, CNBC.com
The following is the text of a live blog of the Leveson Inquiry, held earlier Wednesday, which was set up by Prime Minister David Cameron following the phone-hacking scandal plaguing News Corp.
James Murdoch’s appearance at Tuesday’s sitting of the Leveson Inquiry showed that the Murdochs are not afraid to burn their U.K. contacts — which has heightened speculation that they are preparing a sale of the company’s troublesome U.K. newspapers, despite previous denials of a sale of the U.K. business, which accounts for about 3 percent of News Corp.’s profits.
The younger Murdoch's testimonymoved the focus away from phone hacking and toward whether Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt acted as an advocate for News Corp.’s bid to take over the 60.1 percent of BSkyB that it doesn't already own. Hunt is now facing calls to resign.
The elder Murdoch appeared on Wednesday between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. BST (5:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. New York time).
All times below are British Standard Time.
Rupert Murdoch provided more evidence about how close News International, News Corp'.s U.K. newspaper subsidiary, became to senior politicians. The 81-year-old billionaire was also quizzed about how much he knew about hacking and alleged payments by News International journalists to police officers and other public officials. Allegations about payments for information could land News Corp. in hot water in the U.S.
Murdoch's wife Wendi is expected to be by his side when he takes the stand, although hopefully she won’t have to defend him from another pie-throwing protester.
2:49 p.m.: The inquiry has concluded for the day.
2:47 p.m.: Murdoch said his support for Scottish independence and the Scottish National Party was "emotional" because of his Scottish heritage. He added that he thought SNP leader Alex Salmond is "an attractive person."
2:35 p.m.: Murdoch said it was "pure coincidence" that News Corp. launched the BSkyB bid a month after the last election.
2:30 p.m.:Michael Bloomberg — founder of the financial newswire as well as mayor of New York City — is "sent crazy" by Murdoch-owned newspapers supporting him, according to the News Corp. founder.
2:25 p.m.: He said it was "part of the democratic process" for politicians to make their views known and added: "That's the game."
2:22 p.m.: Murdoch repeated that the idea he would use the influence of The Sun to gain political influence was a "myth."
2:18 p.m.: Murdoch said he "felt very strongly" about allegations that U.K. soldiers in Afghanistan were not being protected as well as those from the U.S., and that was the key tipping point for his disillusionment with the Labour Party. He argued that if he had been acting in commercial interests, he would have always backed the more pro-business Conservative Party.
2:15 p.m.: Murdoch denied discussing with Cameron the appointment of ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson as Cameron's head of communications. He also denied talking about regulator Ofcom or the BBC licence fee with Cameron. His son James has previously attacked the U.K.'s public broadcast network.
2:07 p.m.: Murdoch's relationship with Prime Minister David Cameron was under the spotlight when the inquiry resumed after lunch.The extent of Rebekah Brooks' connections was shown — her 2008 wedding not only had Murdoch in attendance, but also Blair, Brown, and Cameron, the last three British prime ministers.
1:02 p.m.: Recess called.
1:01 p.m.: Murdoch said he regretted launching BSkyB's initial public offering, and said buying back the remainder of the television company had been one of Chase Carey's main aims on returning to News Corp.
12:56 p.m.: Murdoch denied The Sun had hacked into Gordon Brown's son's medical records, and said the newspaper had found out he suffered from cystic fibrosis from another parent at the hospital.
He said Gordon Brown told him he had declared war on the Murdoch-owned press after Murdoch told him that he was withdrawing his support for Brown's government.
12:50 p.m.: Murdoch was also asked about the famous "pajama party" held by Gordon Brown's wife Sarah at 10 Downing Street for women, including Rebekah Brooks, in 2009. He responded in typically Australian fashion: "It was just a bunch of women, probably complaining about their husbands."
12:45 p.m.: Murdoch said he "hoped relations could be repaired" with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown — who accused Murdoch newspapers of illegally accessing his sick child's medical records.
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12:41 p.m.: The Iraq war was also on the agenda. Lawyer Kay asked Murdoch whether phone calls with Blair around the time war was declared included a discussion of how to deal with French President Jacques Chirac — then opposed to the war. Murdoch said he did not recollect the conversation.