“Mr. Murdoch never knew of payments made by ‘Sun’ staff to police before News Corporation disclosed that to UK Authorities. Furthermore, he never said he knew of payments. It’s absolutely false to suggest otherwise,” the statement read.
After persistent denials that he knew anything about bribery of officials at News Corp.’s British tabloids, Rupert Murdoch appears to reverse himself in an explosive audio recording that surfaced in England on Wednesday.
British investigative website ExaroNews first reported a transcript of the tape, which it says was recorded at meeting between the News Corp. chief and top executives from tabloid “The Sun” in March. According to the transcript, Murdoch says News Corp. “got caught with dirty hands, I guess, with the ‘News of the World,’ and everybody piled in.” (News Corp. shuttered the 168-year-old profitable tabloid in the wake of the hacking scandal which engulfed his media company in 2011).
Murdoch also says News Corp. got “picked on,” blaming the “get-even crowd of (former Prime Minister) Gordon Brown,” and conceded that bribery of officials was nothing new to tabloids.
“We’re talking about payments for news tips from cops: that’s been going on a hundred years, absolutely,” Murdoch said. “You didn’t instigate it.
“I remember when I first bought the News of the World, the first day I went to the office… and there was a big wall-safe… And I said, ‘What’s that for?’ And they said, ‘We keep some cash in there.’ And I said, ‘What for?’ They said, ‘Well, sometimes the editor needs some on a Saturday night for powerful friends. And sometimes the chairman (the late Sir William Carr) is doing badly at the tables, (laughter) and he helps himself…”
A copy of the tape aired Wednesday on Channel 4 in Britain.
On the tapes, Murdoch also outlines a succession plan for News Corp. that does not include the possibility of son James Murdoch running the company.
“It will either be with my son, Lachlan, or with [News Corp. Chief Executive] Robert Thomson.”
In a statement released on Wednesday, News Corp. did not deny the legitimacy of the recording but emphasized what the media company has done to rectify the situation since the hacking scandal erupted two years ago.
“No other company has done as much to identify what went wrong, compensate the victims, and ensure the same mistakes do not happen again. The unprecedented cooperation granted by News Corp. was agreed unanimously by senior management and the board, and the MSC [Management Standards Committee] continues to cooperate under the supervision of the courts. Rupert Murdoch has shown understandable empathy with the staff and families affected and will assume they are innocent until and unless proven guilty.”
The alleged admissions are potentially monumental given Murdoch’s previous denials that he knew anything about the bribery and his condemnations of it.
“Invading people’s privacy by listening to their voicemail is wrong. Paying police officers for information is wrong” Murdoch stated before a parliamentary committee in July of 2011.