Murdoch: 'I'm guilty of not having paid enough attention to the News of the World'
Management at News International and News Corporation were "misinformed" about the true extent of phone hacking at the News of the World, and "shielded from anything that was going on there", Rupert Murdoch told the Leveson inquiry today.
The News Corporation chairman said he blamed "one or two people" at the title "who perhaps I shouldn't name" for hiding the truth from bosses.
He told the inquiry today: "There is no question in my mind that someone took charge of a cover-up which we were victim to and I regret."
Murdoch added: "There were one or two very strong characters there who had been there many many years and were friends with the journalists - a drinking pal."
He referred to this person as "a clever lawyer", and added: "There are reports that this person forbade people to go and report to Mrs Brooks [the News International chief executive]".
Murdoch said News of the World editor Colin Myler was not his first choice to edit the newspaper.
He told the inquiry: "I'd hoped that Mr Myler would do what he was commissioned to do. And certainly during the remaining seven or eight months of [NI chairman Les] Hinton's regime, he did not report back to him. Maybe he didn't find anything out, but he certainly didn't report back."
Murdoch also accused law firm Harbottle and Lewis of failing to alert management. He said: "I have not gone through that whole file that they were given but I have tasted them and I cannot understand a law firm reading that and not ringing the chief executive of a company and saying: Hey, you've got some big problems."
However, Murdoch added: "In hindsight, the buck stops with me. I trusted Mr Hinton. I delegated that responsibility to Mr Hinton."
Lord Justice Leveson asked: "Here was a newspaper that was in your family that you had built up to be the largest selling newspaper in the UK. Quite apart from the commercial side of it, you would really want to know what the hell was going on, because print ink was running through your veins.
"This wasn't just a matter of commercial interest for you - this was the very core of your being. Were you not really intensely concerned to know what was going on?"
"I wonder whether you wouldn't want to know: what was the atmosphere or the climate within your newspaper that had encouraged the reporter to think that this was a correct way to proceed - that this was justifiable - that the paper would be prepared to let this happen, to go the extra illegal mile to get that story."
Murdoch replied: "I have to admit that some newspapers are closer to my heart than others. I also have to say that I failed.
"I'm guilty of not having paid enough attention to the News of the World probably in all the time we owned it."
Asked if News International had deliberately failed to co-operate with the original police inquiry into hacking, Murdoch said: "I don't agree with that. We appointed a special law firm to look into this and to aid our cooperation with the police.
"The police, after the charging of Mr Goodman, said that was it, they were closing the file. I can't believe they would have done that if they were unhappy with our cooperation."