Rupert Murdoch 'not fit' to run big company: UK lawmakers

LONDON - A British parliamentary report said Tuesday that Rupert Murdoch had showed "wilful blindness" over phone hacking at his News of the World tabloid and was not fit to run a major company.

"We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company," the cross-party culture committee said in a damning report on the scandal.

The lawmakers found that Murdoch's News International newspaper publishing arm misled the British parliament and instinctively sought to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing in the company.

Murdoch must take responsibility for the "wilful blindness" shown by his News Corp. media empire and News International, said the long-awaited report.

The hacking scandal led the Murdochs to shut down the News of the World last July.

In a 121-page report, parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Committee scrutiny body said senior executives had misled parliament in evidence to the committee.

The 11-member panel said it was now for parliament's lower House of Commons to decide "what punishment should be imposed" on those it thinks have treated the committee with contempt.

The report said the integrity and effectiveness of parliamentary committees relied on the "truthfulness and completeness" of evidence submitted.

"The behaviour of News International and certain witnesses in this affair demonstrated contempt for that system in the most blatant fashion," it concluded.

"If at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone-hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications," it concluded.

"This culture, we consider, permeated from the top."

The News of the World was closed as the phone-hacking scandal exploded with revelations that the voicemails of a missing schoolgirl later found dead had been hacked.

Murdoch's youngest son James was News International's chairman and chief executive. Father and son both gave evidence to the committee on July 19 last year, when Murdoch senior was attacked with a shaving foam pie by a comedian.

The committee also heard testimony from senior executives at News International.

The report said former News International executive chairman Les Hinton, former legal manager Tom Crone and the News of the World's final editor Colin Myler had all misled the committee.

"Corporately, the News of the World and News International misled the committee about the true nature and extent of the internal investigations they professed to have carried out in relation to phone hacking," the report concluded.

This was done by "making statements they would have known were not fully truthful and failing to disclose documents which would have helped expose the truth", the committee said.

"Their instinct throughout, until it was too late, was to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators, as they also professed they would do after the criminal convictions.

"In failing to investigate properly, and by ignoring evidence of widespread wrongdoing, News International and its parent company News Corporation exhibited wilful blindness, for which the company's directors - including Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch - should ultimately be prepared to take responsibility."

The report said "the whole affair demonstrates huge failings of corporate governance".

Phone hacking at the News of the World came to the fore in the trial of its royal editor Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator, who were jailed in 2007 for illegally accessing voicemails.

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