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News Corp heavies feel heat of UK inquiry

Rupert and James Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks, as well as top police officials are giving evidence in the UK parliament over the unfolding hacking scandal. The nation is following the scandal that shocked it and undermined its trust in the establishment.

"This is the most humble day of my life," was the first thing Rupert Murdoch confessed during the Tuesday hearing at Westminster.

The media mogul underlined that he is not responsible for the phone hacking scandal involving his media empire. He blamed “people I trusted” for the scandal and repeatedly insisted that he was not really in touch with the tabloid or was unaware of what was going on there.

Asked whether he has considered resigning as CEO of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch said: "No. People I trusted have let me down … behaved disgracefully. I'm the best person to clear this up."

Murdoch told the parliamentary committee on Tuesday he was not informed that his company had paid 700,000 pounds in one case to settle lawsuits of phone hacking victims.

According to the 80-year-old media tycoon, he was “shocked, appalled and ashamed” at the hacking of the phone of a murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. Earlier, Murdoch apologized to the parents of the girl, whose phone was hacked by his journalists.

He also noted there was no evidence that his journalists targeted the 9/11 victims. He told MPs he did not believe the FBI had uncovered any evidence of it. The statement comes as the FBI has earlier launched an investigation into whether Murdoch’s newspapers illegally snooped on any victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks or their families.

Unlike his father, James Murdoch was less categorical in denying that News International journalists hacked into the phones of 9/11 victims, saying he had no evidence of it and that it would have been totally unacceptable.

The elder Murdoch admitted the News of the World tabloid was closed because of criminal allegations, denying that the closure was motivated by financial considerations. He added that the 168-year-old paper “is less than 1 percent'' of his News Corp, which employs 53,000 people.

Rupert Murdoch noted that he was humbled by the parliamentary hearing into the scandal and underlined that news organizations need to put stronger emphasis on ethics in the wake of the unfolding scandal involving his news outlets.

We do need to think in this country more forcefully and thoughtfully about our journalistic ethics,” he told the lawmakers.

Rupert Murdoch’s son James said it is a matter of "deep frustration" and "real regret" that the facts did not emerge earlier.

Earlier, the outgoing London police chief Paul Stephenson admitted that he had embarrassed the force by hiring former News of theWorld executive editor Neil Wallis as a PR consultant, but denied wrongdoing, or knowing anything about paper’s phone-hacking techniques.

I never spoke to Wallis about hacking,” he told MPs at Tuesday questioning.

He said he had resigned from the position in the run-up to next year’s London Olympics as he did not want “continuing speculation around the position of the commissioner.”

Stephenson also has also said that ten of the 45 press officers working in his department came from Rupert Murdoch’s News International. He however denied that there are any improper links between the force and Murdoch’s media empire.

Two other senior figures in the London police – John Yates and Dick Fedorcio – have blamed each other for the decision to hire Neil Wallis.

John Yates, the outgoing Assistant Commissioner in the London Metropolitan Police Service, denied wrongdoing in the scandal, but said that he wished he had re-opened the investigation into phone hacking.

Yates said if he had known that News International had covered up phone hacking in 2009, he would have made a different decision.

­Brooks claims she learnt of hacking allegations a fortnight ago

During her Wednesday testimony at the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Rebekah Brooks, a former editor of the News of the World, said she had no knowledge that the dead schoolgirl's phone was hacked.

I first heard of it two weeks ago. I'm sorry, that's how it is,” she said, adding that she would “take responsibility” if any journalist on her watch is proved to have accessed Milly Dowler’s voicemails.

Brooks, who was a chief editor when the newspaper’s journalists intercepted the teenager’s phone, claimed that “at the time, it wasn't a practice that was condoned or sanctioned at the News of the World.

She also said that it was not until late 2010 that the chief staff of the News of the World became aware that phone hacking could be widespread. The awareness came as a result of a civil lawsuit brought by celebrities who claimed to be victims of phone hacking. It was the first time the newspaper’s management "had actually seen documentary evidence relating to a current employee," Brooks said.

Brooks refuted suggestions that her relationship with Prime Minister David Cameron was “inappropriate.”

At no time have I ever had any conversation with the prime minister that you in the room would disapprove of,” she told the panel and the only-seven journalists who were allowed to remain in the room after an earlier “foam pie” attack on Rupert Murdoch.

Brooks, who had to leave her high post with News International, owner of News of the World, due to the hacking scandal, was arrested on Sunday. She is suspected of conspiring to intercept communications and of corrupting police officers. After being questioned for 12 hours, Brooks was released on bail.

­US journalist Chez Pazienza told RT the storm in the UK is likely to affect the way the Murdoch empire works.

“This is end of the untouchable Murdoch empire,” Pazienza declared. “We will soon see a lot of changes in the way his company is dealt with. Moreover, they are smelling blood in the water here as well.”

Pazienza explained that the scandal has already crossed the Atlantic, with the FBI looking into allegations that the phones of 9/11 victims were hacked.

“If that were to be proved, there will be a massive scandal,” Pazienza said. “But right now it is just speculation.”