David Cameron distances himself from News Corp. topper

LONDON — James Murdoch, News Corp.’s deputy COO and his father’s likely successor, has questions to answer from the police over his role in the phone-hacking scandal, according to the British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Cameron, whose former communications director Andy Coulson was arrested over the affair on Friday, said that the police should question anyone “no matter how high or low” involved in the affair over illegal phone interceptions at the News of the World, which now involves allegations of police corruption.

“The truth is, we have all been in this together — the press, politicians and leaders of all parties — and yes, that includes me,” said Cameron, who has been under pressure from Labour Party leader Ed Miliband to acknowledge his “catastrophic error of judgement” in hiring Coulson.

On Thursday James Murdoch acknowledged “repeated wrongdoing” at the paper and admitted that he had personally approved payments to cover up illegal phone hacking.

Asked about this admission, Cameron said that everyone who had questions to answer should be approached by police.

“The police have got the resources and the skills to follow the evidence wherever it leads. To question anyone no matter how high or low,” said Cameron.

“The statement yesterday leaves all sorts of questions to be answered. The police must feel they can go wherever they need to question anyone.”

The U.K. Prime Minister has announced a package of measures in response to the crisis, including a public inquiry led by a judge and a second inquiry into ethics in the British press.

Questioned by reporters on who may have lied, Cameron said: “I don’t know what these people at News International did know or didn’t know.

“Frankly, I don’t think any of us know what they did know or didn’t know.

“The key thing is they are going to be investigated by the police and when they get investigated by the police and when the truth is out, it won’t be a question of whether or not they have jobs or whether or not they resigned from those jobs, it’s a question of whether they are going to be prosecuted, whether they are going to be convicted, whether they are going to be punished.”

Appearing to acknowledge that U.K. pols in both his own party and the Labour Party had gone out of their way to court the Murdochs and their lieutenants, he said: “You are bound to as a party leader to want to have a relationship with journalists, with editors, with broadcasters, with proprietors.

“You do that because you have a mission to explain how you want to change the country. If that means talking to the head of the BBC, the editor of the Guardian or Rupert Murdoch, you get out there and do it and that is what I have done.”

He added: “The regret I have — the problem we are all now identifying — is that leading politicians feel so strongly about wanting that relationship, not just with the Murdochs but with every broadcasting organization, we don’t actually stop and spend enough time asking — ‘is this organization behaving properly?’”

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