Police were forced to remove a man who accosted Rupert Murdoch with a plate of shaving cream during the media baron’s appearance before a House of Select Committee of British Parliament on Tuesday. Murdoch is facing questions about potential criminal activity at his News Corp.’s U.K. newspaper holdings, including a phone hacking scandal at News of the World.
After the incident, Murdoch’s son and wife, James Murdoch and Wendi Deng, both leapt to their feet to protect the 80-year-old publisher. An observer told CNN that Wendi Deng looked pleased she was able to thwart the man, described as being in his late 20s or early 30s, who called Murdoch a “greedy billionaire.”
Afterward, the committee apologized to Rupert Murdoch for the interruption and praised his courage for continuing to appear and face “tough questions.” The committee chairman also congratulated Murdoch for his wife having “a very good left hook.”
It was a moment of drama in an otherwise long, dry afternoon of questions and answers about the inner workings of the Murdoch newspaper holdings, which Rupert Murdoch conceded form only a small part of his international media empire.
Dressed in a dark blue suit and frequently scowling behind his eyeglasses during most of the session, Murdoch told the committee at one point: “This is the most humble day of my life.”
Later, when asked whether a celebrity today could expect any sense of privacy, Murdoch answered a firm, “No.” He gave the same answer when asked if he considered resigning as CEO of his own company. He said he is the best man for that job and that he had been let down by those he trusted.
James Murdoch, 38, News Corp.’s Chief Operating Officer, sat at his father’s side and answered most questions pertaining to the day-to-day business of News Corp., which published the recently shuttered News of the World, as well as London’s The Times, The Sunday Times and the Sun.
The Murdoch family holdings in the U.S. include the Fox News Network, Fox TV, 20th Century Fox movie studios, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.
Because of the recent scandal, the Murdochs’s $12-billion bid for the satellite company British Sky Broadcasting has been withdrawn, and all of Murdoch’s newspapers in the U.K. carried a personal apology from Rupert Mudoch last Sunday, along with a promise to reinstate readers’ trust.
Since it was first revealed that News of the World had hacked the cell phone of a murdered 13-year-old schoolgirl, nine people have been arrested, including trusted Murdoch employee Rebekah Brooks, who was also accused of phone hacking and paying police for information. Brooks was questioned after the session with the Murdochs.
Joel Klein, who is currently an executive vice-president at News Corp., and involved in the internal investigation of the phone-hacking scandal, also attended.
Among the points underscored by committee members during the session was that Rupert Murdoch was forced to use a back door at 10 Downing Street at a congratulatory reception for the prime minister, and that Glenn Mulcaire, the man allegedly responsible for the phone hacking, may still be having his legal fees paid for by News Corp.