I knew nothing, and I'm sorry.
That was the line that Rupert Murdoch gave over and over again during his marathon appearance before the British Parliament on Tuesday—one which was thrown into complete disarray when a protester attacked Murdoch with a foam pie.
Murdoch, his son James and former News International chief Rebekah Brooks all appeared before the committee to give evidence about the phone hacking scandal which has plunged Murdoch's News Corp into grave crisis and is roiling the political and police establishment in Britain. All three gave variations on the same theme: we were not aware.
"The News of the World is less than one percent of our company," Murdoch said in one typical exchange. "I employ 53,000 people around the world."
Murdoch was quick to apologize for the wrongdoing committed by News of the World journalists. He called his appearance "the most humble day of my life," and said he was shocked and appalled when he found out that his employees had hacked into the phone of Milly Dowler, the murdered 13-year-old.
But he insisted that any false statements he had made about the extent of phone hacking were the result of false information given to him, said there was no chance of him resigning his position, and refused point-blank to accept any responsibility for what had happened. Rather, he said, the "people I trusted" to manage his British newspapers should "pay" for the crisis. "I'm the best person to clean this up," he said.
Murdoch did not name who, exactly, betrayed him, and he pledged unswerving loyalty to Les Hinton and Rebekah Brooks, the two News International chiefs who have now been forced to resign as a result of their connection to the scandal. He did criticize former News of the World editor Colin Myler, who he said had conducted an insufficiently aggressive internal investigation of the newspaper that Murdoch set up to find out "what the hell was going on" there.
Towards the beginning of the testimony, Murdoch often appeared surprisingly uninformed about his company, claiming not to know about high-profile figures at the News of the World and saying that he only learned of a $700,000 payment made to settle a phone-hacking lawsuit by soccer star Gordon Taylor when he read about it in the newspaper.
Murdoch also said he rarely spoke to the editor of the News of the World, calling him maybe once a month, and only then to discuss what was in the next day's paper. By contrast, he said, he spoke to the editor of the Sunday Times once a week, and to the editor of the Wall Street Journal all the time.
James Murdoch repeatedly stepped in to explain the finer points of the News International operation. He trod into sticky territory when he admitted that News Corp might still be paying the legal fees of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who was jailed in 2006 for phone hacking. (Many reports have asserted that the company is absolutely still paying those fees.)
He was, he said, "very surprised" to find that the payments were still being made. Rupert Murdoch pledged to stop paying the fees.
James Murdoch also claimed not to have been aware of any wider phone-hacking operation until at least late 2010, saying that multiple investigations had cleared the company's name.
For a complete recap of the hearing, see below. And watch the video of Murdoch being attacked.