18 Jul 2013

Murdoch responds to secret tape

In letters to two select committee chairmen, Rupert Murdoch has made his first full response to the secret recording of his conversation with Sun employees made in March.

Mr Murdoch tells the MPs he’s happy to come back to talk to them again, but his late July dates on offer come after the Commons has already started its summer break.

With trials starting in early September, it’s not clear when he’ll be back in Westminster.

He apologises for his criticism of the Met in the secret recordings. He had called them “incompetent” in front of his staff.

In the letters, fired off from his New York office yesterday, he tells MPs:  “I am in no position to judge the competence of the investigation and should never have done so.”

In one letter he writes: “I should not have spoken disrespectfully of the police. We all owe a great debt to the MPS for their work each day to protect the public.”

Although he does make some swipes at the police even as he apologises for his language in the secretly recorded tapes.

He says that the police investigation has been  “… more than thorough, indeed it has in some respects appeared to be excessive.”  He writes that it is: “… my personal view  … that this has gone on for too long,”

“I am sure I made overly emotional comments about the MPS …” he writes, but says that was triggered by exasperation at pre-dawn raids he considers unnecessary and over-manned, one attempted suicide, much illness and distress amongst his staff.

He insists that he did not treat any of the alleged wrongdoing by News International staff as “nothing” and did not mean to suggest that any violations of law are tolerable or acceptable.  He says he still thinks his staff have been unfairly focused on compared with other newspapers.

Mr Murdoch writes that his company, in total, trawled 23 m documents and sent half a million of them to the Met (at a cost of £65m to his company).

He writes that: “It would not be fair even to suggest that our company has impeded the MPS [Metropolitan police service]. The opposite is true”, and it is only wanting court orders for documents now because trials are now pending and rights need to be fully protected.

Tom Watson, on Channel 4 News, speculated that Rupert Murdoch might have to wait til the end of the year for his next engagement with MPs. He said he found it hard to believe Mr Murdoch’s words and that the letters reeked of expensive lawyers, crisis management teams and disingenuousness.

Rupert Murdoch writes that : “the ‘reports’ that I knew about, let alone tolerated payments to police are completely false.” Copies of the tapes are now in the possession of the police.

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