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Murdoch's Wife Protects Him From Pie-Throwing Protester in Phone-hacking Hearing

News Corp. CEO Says he's Sorry About what his 'News of the World' Tabloid Did


Murdoch's Wife Protects Him From Pie-Throwing Protester in Phone-hacking Hearing

Wendi Deng

Photo courtesy Getty Images

There was plenty of drama in July 2011 when Rupert Murdoch testified to Parliament about the phone-hacking scandal that has swept Britain, most obviously when Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng, threw a punch at a protester who tried to splatter the media tycoon with a shaving cream pie.

But the upshot of the day was this: While Murdoch said he was sorry that his News of the World tabloid had hacked into the cellphones of possibly thousands of unsuspecting victims, including murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, the News Corp. CEO rejected suggestions that he was ultimately responsible for what had happened, saying he was let down by "people I trusted."

Murdoch also batted down questions about whether he had considered resigning his post, adding: "I think that frankly I'm the best person to clean this up."

Both Murdoch and his son, James, head of News Corp. subsidiary News International, displayed plenty of contrition. Murdoch called the questioning before a parliamentary committee "the most humble day of my career." James Murdoch said the hacking was "inexcusable" and that "these actions do not live up to the standards our company aspires to."

But Murdoch also claimed to be ignorant about many key points of the scandal:

• Murdoch said he didn't investigate after former News International head Rebekah Brooks admitted in 2003 that reporters had paid cops for information, saying, "I was not aware of that."

• He said he was not told about out-of-court payments approved by James to settle several phone-hacking cases.

• He said he had "never heard" of a News of the World reporter who was arrested earlier this year on phone-hacking charges.

Indeed, more than once the 80-year-old media baron seemed foggy about details and hesitant in answering questions, content to let his 38-year-old son do much of the heavy lifting.

At other moments he was almost defiant, occasionally banging on the table to emphasize his points.

And in contrast with his more strait-laced son, the elder Murdoch occasionally tried to leaven the proceedings with humor. Asked about his frequent confabs with British prime ministers, he told the committee, "I wish they'd leave me alone."

The highlight of the day came near the end of the proceedings. When a protester tried to hurl a shaving cream pie at the octogenarian media baron, Wendi Deng, Murdoch's 42-year-old wife, responded with lightning speed, throwing a punch at the man and, according to media reports, sending the pie straight back into his face.

Tom Watson, a member of the committee that had been grilling Murdoch, told him, "Your wife has a very good left hook."

Needless to say, the video of the incident immediately went viral, and Twitter went crazy with celebs and others expressing their admiration for Deng's quick reflexes. Katie Couric tweeted: "Wow wendy murdoch giving whole new meaning to the term tiger mother...insanity!"

The Murdochs' testimony came just a week after The News of the World, the tabloid at the center the scandal, was shut down.

In a statement to the paper's staff, James Murdoch said the tab's 168-year-old tradition had been "sullied by behavior that was wrong. Indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company."

He added: "The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself."

The paper allegedly hacked into the cellphone accounts of three murdered schoolgirls, victims of the 2005 London terrorist attack and family members of servicemen killed in combat. Published reports have indicated the phones of thousands of people may have been hacked.

The scandal has provoked a debate in Britain about whether journalists should consider themselves professionals and, as such, observe ethical guidelines.

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