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The UK parliamentary inquiry into the News of the World phone hacking scandal erupted into high drama last night as a man physically attacked the 80-year-old Rupert Murdoch, thrusting a plate of foam into his face as he sat at the witness table.

He was restrained by police but not before Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng sprang aggressively to her husband’s defence, raining ferocious blows on the man, later identified as Jonnie Marbles, a British anarchist and comedian.

The inquiry was adjourned as Marbles was taken away in handcuffs, but resumed after a short break with a cleaned-up and apparently calm Rupert Murdoch, appearing in his shirt sleeves, agreeing to continue to take questions along with son James, chief executive of News International.


Daily Mail Images

 

Conservative MP Lousie Mensch complimented Murdoch on his “guts” – but continued the questioning on News Group’s handling of the phone-hacking affair and associated allegations. And the committee chairman complimented Wendi Deng on her “very good left hook” (it was in fact mainly a succession of right crosses).

Rupert Murdoch had begun his appearance by saying he was experiencing “the most humble day of my life.” He took a contrite tone over the matter but denied that he was personally responsible.

Murdoch senior answered questions tersely, in many cases deferring to James, who fielded most of the questions by the parliamentarians in some detail. He later read a long apology to victims of the scandal.

James Murdoch also apologised for the scandal, telling the British politicians that “these actions do not live up to the standards our company aspires to around the world.” He denied suggestions that the Murdochs had been deliberately kept in the dark about dimensions of the scandal, saying the group was a very large organisation that worked by delegating authority among executives.

Rupert Murdoch said he was not informed that his company had paid out big sums, 700,000 pounds ($1.1 million) in one case, to settle lawsuits by phone hacking victims.

Asked by a questioner to what extent he believed phone and bank records, e-mails and other private information should be used in investigative journalism, he said he thought phone hacking was “a different thing” but that society was better off thanks to investigative journalism.

The inquiry was proceeding – and telecast live on Sky News and ABC TV’s 24-hour news  – as CDN went to press this morning.

 

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