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Live Blog: Rupert Murdoch Hits Back in Leveson Testimony

Wednesday, 25 Apr 2012 | 9:51 AM ET

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.

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch looks down as he leaves the One Aldwych Hotel surrounded by his personal security team to speak with reporters after meeting with the family of murdered school girl Milly Dowler on July 15, 2011 in London, England.
Getty Images
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch looks down as he leaves the One Aldwych Hotel surrounded by his personal security team to speak with reporters after meeting with the family of murdered school girl Milly Dowler on July 15, 2011 in London, England.

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.

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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.

Rupert Murdoch
Nick Laham | Getty Images
Rupert Murdoch

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.

News Corporation
Bebeto Matthews
News Corporation

12:37 p.m.: Murdoch was also asked if he got Blair to call former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi over the takeover of Mediaset — which he denied.

He admitted spiking a book by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, which was supposed to have been published by News Corp.-backed Harper Collins, but denied that this was because of his commercial interests in China.

12:21 p.m.: Recess called for 5 minutes.

12:17 p.m.: Murdoch faced close questioning about his decision to back Tony Blair's government, and admitted Blair's move to a more skeptical position on the euro pleased him.

He denied there had been an "implicit understanding" that Blair would take a less positive stance on the euro in return for Murdoch newspapers' endorsement.

12:10 p.m.: "I'm afraid I don't have much subtlety about me," Murdoch said.

12:06 p.m.: "My commercial interests...never came into any consideration on where we stood on issues or political parties," Murdoch said.

12:04 p.m.: Murdoch said a quote from ex-spin doctor Alistair Campbell about Murdoch and the then-Leader of the Opposition Tony Blair "making love like porcupines — very, very carefully" sounded accurate.

11:54 a.m.: He admitted that News Corp. shareholders would like him to "get rid of" its newspapers — but he confessed: "I love newspapers."

11:52 a.m.: Murdoch said when asked about political influence: "Politicians always seek the support of all newspapers and all media outlets — that's part of democracy."

11:45 a.m.:The Sun famously ran the headline: "It Was The Sun Wot Won It" after the 1992 U.K. election — won by the Conservatives after the endorsement of The Sun. Murdoch said he gave the then editor "a bollocking" over the headline.

11:42 a.m.: "People can stop buying my newspapers if they want...They unfortunately often do," he said.

11:39 a.m.: Murdoch was quizzed over whether politicians including Baroness Thatcher supported his early bids for business such as The Times and Sky in return for his support. He denied this, pointing out that other proprietors also backed Thatcher.

11:25 a.m.: It emerged that Adam Smith, the advisor responsible for much of the communication between Jeremy Hunt and News Corp., has resigned ahead of Hunt's statement today.

Adam Smith's statement, in part: "I appreciate that my activities at times went too far and have, taken together, created the perception that News Corporation had too close a relationship with the department, contrary to the clear requirements set out by Jeremy Hunt and the permanent secretary that this needed to be a fair and scrupulous process."

11:23 a.m.: The inquiry resumes. Rupert Murdoch said he does not believe in the use of private detectives, as they make reporters lazy.

He added that intrusion into the lives of celebrities and politicians is justified. "They're not entitled to the same privacy as the man in the street," he said.

11:13 a.m.: Recess called. The inquiry is to resume in 10 minutes.

11:06 a.m.: Murdoch denied being one of the main powers behind the Thatcher throne — a claim made by another politician to author Roy Greenslade.

11:02 a.m.: The Inquiry quoted extensively from a memoir by Harold Evans, the former Times and Sunday Times editor. Evans claimed Murdoch said: "I give instructions to my editors all around the world, why shouldn't I in London?"

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10:55 a.m.: Murdoch maintained that the standards of The Sun had improved under his ownership.

"The Sun has never been a better paper than it is today" he said.

Wendy Murdoch defending her husband Rupert Murdoch during the News Corp hearings on July 17, 2011.
CNBC.com
Wendy Murdoch defending her husband Rupert Murdoch during the News Corp hearings on July 17, 2011.

The aim of all his newspapers is "to tell the truth," according to Murdoch.

10:51 a.m.: Murdoch added that he runs his company with "a great deal of decentralization."

"I set an example of ethical behavior... But do I do it (run News Corp.) by an aura of charisma? I don't think so," he said.

10:49 a.m.: Murdoch said he has never pushed his commercial interests in his newspapers. The 81-year-old had impressive memory for the detail of deals done decades ago.

10:32 a.m.: The session began with examination of events which for many are ancient history — Murdoch's takeover of The Times and the Sunday Times more than 30 years ago. The purchase was followed by a dispute with print unions in Wapping which is still one of the most famous industrial disputes in British history.

10:28 a.m.: Murdoch's famous battle with the unions at Wapping, home of News International, was discussed.

"I didn't have the will to crush the unions. I might have had the desire," he said, adding, "I have never asked a prime minister for anything."

10:24 a.m.: Murdoch was asked about an early meeting with then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher where the policies of Ronald Reagan, who was just about to be inaugurated as president of the U.S., were discussed.

10:19 a.m.: Murdoch cautioned "don't take my tweets too seriously," when asked about his recent outburst against "old toffs and rightwingers" on Twitter.

10:14 a.m.: "I welcome the opportunity to put certain myths to bed," he said.

10:13 a.m.: Murdoch started by denying that he resents U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron for setting up the inquiry.

10:10 a.m.: Murdoch is sworn in and takes his seat.

10:05 a.m.: Murdoch's wife Wendi enters the room. The inquiry commences.

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