An MP says that a tape revealing what Rupert Murdoch really made of the scandal that engulfed his empire should be in the hands of the police.
Labour MP Tom Watson told Channel 4 News: “I’m sure that this audio and this transcript should be in the hands of the police.”
He was speaking after secret recordings of Rupert Murdoch speaking privately to Sun journalists, obtained by investigative website Exaro and broadcast on Channel 4 News, showed what the media mogul’s real attitudes were to the phone-hacking scandal which engulfed his empire.
Contrite in public but rather less so in private, the tapes include Mr Murdoch talking about “incompetent” cops, regretting his own investigation and promising to protect journalists regardless of the outcome of the police investigation.
Other MPs also raised concerns over the tape. Former Labour secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Ben Bradshaw, told Channel 4 News it raised real questions over whether Mr Murdoch was a “fit and proper” person to run a broadcasting company under British law.
“I think this raises real questions regarding the ‘fit and proper’ test…in light of this news, there is an argument for Ofcom reviewing this,” he said.
But former Executive Editor of the News of the World Neil Wallis said the tape showed Mr Murdoch trying to comfort his journalists.
“It’s a little bit ‘shutting the stable door’, frankly,” he told Channel 4 News. “23 journalists from the Sun have been arrested as a result of the actions of the MSC (News Corp’s internal investigation). A whole number of newspaper sources, which I find deeply disturbing, have been arrested. A number of people, sources of journalists, have been arrested – who no-one has ever suggested they’re taking money.
“I think that is very concerning and I think he now realises that that can’t be right.”
Tom Watson MP said the tape suggested that Mr Murdoch was saying different things in private than he was in public, to the Commons select committee and the Leveson inquiry.
I’m sure that this audio and this transcript should be in the hands of the police. Tom Watson MP
“What it [the tape] says is that Rupert Murdoch told parliament one thing and told his staff another. He told parliament he was fully cooperating with the police, he told his staff that it was a mistake that they were cooperating with police.”
He added: “There is a man who sat before parliament and said he had the highest integrity – that they were working their way through it and that people who hacked phones or paid police would be immediately dealt with.
“And then you hear him reassuring people that if they go to jail they might get their jobs back. I’m sure that this audio and this transcript should be in the hands of the police.”
Mr Watson has also written to senior US senators asking them to investigate the contents of the tape.