Britain’s Channel 4 News has obtained letters sent by Rupert Murdoch to two British MPs in an attempt to clarify statements he made to Sun staff that were secretly recorded in March and revealed earlier this month. In the correspondence to MPs Keith Vaz and John Whittingdale, Murdoch says he regrets his choice of words in a “highly emotional meeting”. In the original transcript, which was published by Exaro News, Murdoch says that the practice of making payments to police officers for news tips had “been going on a hundred years” and was the “culture of Fleet Street”. In the letter to Vaz (read it here), Murdoch says, “I did not intend to suggest that any violations of the law are tolerable or acceptable.”In the letter to Whittingdale (read it here), he says, “The ‘reports’ that I knew about let alone tolerated payments to police are completely false. … Since I appeared before you in July 2011, I have … heard about historic practices at other titles as well as our own and by public officials who solicited payments for tips and stories. Our response to this activity has been unambiguous — we were the ones who reported what we found to the police. I do not minimize the wrongdoings that have gone on in the past at our papers. I remain of the view that our reporters must obey the law … but I also believe that our employees have been singled out for the harshest treatment.”
Also in the Exaro transcript, Murdoch referred to the Metropolitan Police as “totally incompetent”. Although he notes in the letters to the MPs that he does not have his own “reliable transcript”, he acknowledges, “I am sure I made overly emotional comments” at the meeting. “I accept that I used the wrong adjectives” to voice frustration over the ongoing police investigation into illegal payments by journalists to public officials. After the revelations of the secretly recorded comments, Murdoch was invited to return to give evidence before Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee. He says in the letters that because the Committee will not be able to schedule him before the fall, he wanted to clarify his comments in writing.