It’s come to this: The News Corp Deputy COO says he saw, but didn’t actually read, a newly released email from 2008 that would demolish a key part of his defense in the News Of The World hacking scandal. The email included a note warning that a hacking victim wanted hush money to hide the fact that the scandal was bigger than News Corp had publicly acknowledged. “Unfortunately, it’s as bad as we feared,” former News Corp lawyer Colin Myler wrote to Murdoch asking for five minutes to discuss the matter. “No worries,” Murdoch replied three minutes later as he proposed times when they could talk.
The documents, released today by the parliamentary committee investigating the scandal, rip at Murdoch’s main defense against the charge that he tried to cover up the full extent of the lawbreaking. Murdoch insists that he did not obstruct justice when he agreed in mid-2008 to pay hacking victim Gordon Taylor — the former head of the Professional Football Association — $1.2M on the condition that he keep quiet about the matter. Murdoch says he really believed at the time what News Corp had said publicly including to Parliament: that the problem was limited to a single, rogue reporter. Yet the email reveals that Taylor knew otherwise and “wishes to be vindicated or made rich.” Taylor knew that at least one other reporter had been involved in hacking. And the note from Farrer & Co lawyer Julian Pike, who talked with Taylor’s attorney, indicated that he “wants to demonstrate that what happened to him is/was rife throughout the organization. He wants to correct the paper telling Parliamentary enquiries that this was not happening when it was.” He would rather see the company “hung out to dry than settle for a sum, in his view, which was too low.” Myler told Murdoch that the note from Pike “is extremely telling regarding Taylor’s vindictiveness.”
Murdoch told the committee in a letter yesterday that he never actually read the juicy stuff: “Given the timing of my response…and the fact that I typically received emails on my BlackBerry on weekends, I am confident that I did not review the full email chain at the time or afterwards.” He reaffirmed that “I was not aware of evidence that either pointed to widespread wrongdoing or indicated that further investigation was necessary.”