In what should be the most explosive scene in a scandal that's had plenty of them already, News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch, his son James and ousted News International chief Rebekah Brooks are scheduled to appear in front of the House of Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport in London today to answer questions about phone hacking. The hearing is being broadcast live on various television networks (check the list here), online (click here for Yahoo's live feed, courtesy of ABC) and liveblogged by throngs of media sites, including The Cutline.
Rupert and James Murdoch are expected to appear in front of the select committee at approximately 9:30 a.m. ET. Refresh this page for live updates:
7:00 a.m.: Need a primer before the main event? Our mini-profiles of the key players in the phone hacking scandal would not be a bad place to start.
7:03 a.m.: Looking for coverage of the phone hacking scandal on the front page of the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal? You'll need a magnifying glass. (The free Metro and amNY were the only New York newspapers to really play it big.)
7:04 a.m.: Inside the Journal, here's today's lede: "Today's scheduled appearance by Rupert Murdoch before a panel of U.K. lawmakers was prompted by a phone-hacking scandal dogging News Corp. But it is the culmination of a 40-year love-hate power struggle between the News Corp. chief and Britain's public and politicians." And: "At stake is both the reputation of a global empire--which had 51,000 employees and annual revenue of $32 billion--and the level of support that the Murdoch family, particularly Rupert and his son James, will have among investors."
7:05 a.m.: Bloomberg reported late Monday that News Corp. is considering replacing Murdoch with chief operating officer Chase Carey, with a final decision hinging on the elder Murdoch's performance in front of Parliament. But News Corp. is denying that any such plan is in play.
7:08 a.m.: In an interview with Matt Lauer on the "Today" show, Adweek editor and Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff said he's spent a lot of time with Murdoch, noting the 80-year-old is "an old 80." Wolff repeated what he said yesterday: He doesn't see any way Murdoch can survive at the head of the company.
7:15 a.m.: Questioning is under way. First up: Sir Paul Stephenson, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, who resigned in the wake of the revelation that Scotland Yard had Paul Wallis, ex-executive editor at News of the World, on its payroll.
7:35 a.m.: Stephenson called said Wallis, who was hired by Scotland Yard as a media "adviser" in 2009, played a "very minor and part-time" role.
7:40 a.m.: Stephenson denied he had a chummy relationship with News Corp. executives. As the Lede blog notes:
He replied that he thought it was necessary to meet with newspapers to make sure that Scotland Yard policies and investigations were properly understood. He added that he met with executives from other newspaper companies as well and it was not his fault that Rupert Murdoch's company was allowed to own such a large share of the British newspaper business.
8:26 a.m.: Stephenson said he "cannot recall" meeting Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor, before David Cameron became prime minister. He also said that he never met Coulson and Wallis together.
8:30 a.m.: Sir Paul admitted 10 former members of the News of the World have worked in the press office at the Met.
9:36 a.m.: Rupert and James Murdoch have taken their seats. In front of them, two bottles of water and two plastic cups. Seated directly behind are Rupert's wife, Wendi, and Joel Klein, former New York City schools chancellor-turned-News Corp. executive vice president and board director. James Murdoch submits a written opening statement. The main event is about to begin.
9:39 a.m.: James Murdoch answered the first question from the committee with a statement anyway. "I would like to say how sorry I am, and how sorry we are," he said. "These actions do not live up to the standards our company aspires to." Rupert interjects: "This is the most humble day of my life." (This line was also from the Murdochs' prepared opening statement.)
9:41 a.m.: James Murdoch said News Corp. was quick to respond once it learned of the original phone hacking allegations. "The company acted as swiftly and as transparently as possible."
9:47 a.m.: James Murdoch: "I have no knowledge" that News of the International chief Rebekah Brooks or Dow Jones chief Les Hinton--both of whom resigned Friday--knew about phone hacking.
9:50 a.m.: First question for Rupert Murdoch about phone hacking. Did he have any knowledge of improprieties? Murdoch stammered: "News of the World represents one percent of the company." News Corp. employs "53,000 people around the world," many of them "distinguished."
9:52 a.m.: Rupert Murdoch said that a question by Labour Party member Tom Watson about a specific case related to phone and e-mail hacking would be better answered by James. "I'll get to him in a minute," Watson replied.
9:55 a.m.: "I forget, but my son knows," is a phrase that may be repeated often by the elder Murdoch during this hearing.
9:59 a.m.: "We find your executives guilty of collective amnesia," Watson told Rupert.
10:03 a.m.: "The company admitted it was involved in a criminal wrongdoing [in April], but no one was fired," Watson noted. Why was no one fired? Many of the employees implicated "had already left the building," James Murdoch replied.
On the closing of NOTW, Rupert Murdoch said, "We felt ashamed about what had happened," and felt it was appropriate to shut the paper down.
10:06 a.m.: Rupert Murdoch admitted that his papers have from time to time used private investigators, but not "illegally."
10:10 a.m.: Of the ongoing FBI investigation, Rupert said there is "no evidence" that 9/11 victims had been hacked by News Corp. employees.
10:12 a.m.: James Murdoch offered what sounds like another statement: "This is a matter of huge and sincere regret [on behalf of] me and my father ... What happened at News of the World was wrong. We have apologized profusely, my father has as well. The company has admitted liability."
10:14 a.m.: Are you ultimately responsible for what happened? Rupert Murdoch: "No." Who is responsible? "The people I trusted, and the people they trusted."
10:28 a.m.: Will these events change the way you approach headlines? Rupert dodged the question. "We must think more forcefully and thoughtfully about our journalistic ethics," James said.
10:30 a.m.: The Murdochs say there are no immediate plans to have a News International title on a Sunday to fill the void left by NOTW, but there had been internal discussions about such a publication "in the last week or so."
10:40 a.m.: James Murdoch said he has "no knowledge" of News Corp. subsidizing Andy Coulson's wages after he left News of the World (and, presumably, when he was the communications director for Prime Minister David Cameron). "Are you aware of the term 'willful blindness'?" Adrian Sanders, a Parliament liberal, fired back.
After some back and forth between Sanders and James, Rupert eventually interjected: "I've heard that before, and we were not ever guilty of that."
10:51 a.m.: Rupert was asked about his day-to-day involvement with editors at News Corp.-owned newspapers. He said that he spends the most time talking with the editor of the Wall Street Journal, and spoke with the NOTW editor on a weekly basis. "I work a 10 or 12 hour day," Rupert said. "News of the World, perhaps I lost sight of. We're in a lot of other things."
10:52 a.m.: Sanders pressed the Murdochs on their knowledge of a reported payoff by the News of the World to one hacking victim, Gordon Taylor. Sanders asked Rupert what he would talk about with the NOTW editor during his weekly calls.
"What's doing," Rupert said.
"He wouldn't tell you about a million-pound payoff?" Sanders asked.
11:00 a.m.: A questioner asked Rupert why he turned down Rebebak Brooks' resignation when she first offered i "I believed her, I trusted her and I do trust her," he replied. In response to the follow-up query of why he refused her resignation a second time, Murdoch answered that it was because "she was in extreme anguish." And what was Brooks' severance? "I don't know," Rupert responded, but "it's certainly confidential." Rupert added that his decision to close News of the World and decision to accept Brooks' resignation were "totally unrelated."
11:20 a.m.: Perhaps feeling some fatigue, James Murdoch declined to answer certain questions in light of the "ongoing criminal investigation."
11:38 a.m.: Rupert Murdoch is asked whether he was "kept in the dark" about phone hacking at the News of the World. Rupert protested: "Anything that is seen as a crisis comes to me."
11:40 a.m.: "There is a difference between being king in the dark, and delegating the management of the businesses," James Murdoch said. "Certain things were not known. When new allegations came to light, the company acted on it." That we didn't know "is a matter of deep regret, and that's why we're here with you today--to be as transparent as we possibly can."
11:42 a.m.: Rupert Murdoch, clarifying something he somewhat garbled earlier: He doesn't believe in phone hacking, he said, but "I do believe investigative journalism does lead to transparency" and "a better society."
11:48 a.m.: Rupert told a quick story about his father to illustrate the family values of his company. In response, Keith Olbermann tweeted: "Nice that Rupert just defended his 'family company' by noting his father's great reporting of Gallipoli. Unfortunately that was in 1915-16."
11:54 a.m.: Select committee hearing is suspended after an altercation; someone apparently approached Rupert Murdoch with shaving foam, hitting Murdoch in the face.
11:58 a.m.: Looking at a slow-motion replay (via News Corp.-owned Sky News) it appeared that Rupert's wife, Wendi, jumped up immediately to blunt what was later called a "shaving foam" attack.
12:00 p.m.: The man was arrested by police, CNN reported.
12:02 p.m.: "That pie thrower did more for Murdoch than Edelman ever could," Katie Rosman, the Wall Street Journal's technology and culture reporter, wrote on Twitter.
12:09 p.m.: The hearing resumed. Rupert appeared to be fine, albeit now without a sport jacket. Parliament member Louise Mensch--who is married to the manager of Metallica--apologized to Murdoch for the shaving cream incident, and applauded his bravery for appearing in front of the committee.
12:10 p.m.: Mensch: "To paraphrase Metallica, Mr. Murdoch, 'Give me fuel, give me fire, give me the answers that I desire.'" (She didn't really say that, of course; The Cutline was daydreaming.)
12:13 p.m.: James Murdoch said the company is taking the allegations made by Jude Law that the actor's phone was hacked while he was in the United States "seriously," but reiterates that he has no knowledge of any stateside hacking.
12:15 p.m.: First mention of Piers Morgan by the select committee. The Murdochs are asked about claims contained in Morgan's book, "The Insider: Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade," in which he admits to questionable journalism practices as an editor at the Daily Mirror. The committee criticizes the Murdochs for not questioning Morgan, the former editor of News of the World.
12:19 p.m.: "This thing happened on your watch," the committee told Rupert Murdoch. So why have you not stepped down? "People I trusted let me down," Murdorch said. "I think that quite frankly, I'm the best person to lead this company."
12:21 p.m.: Here's a better screengrab of the shaving cream on attack on Murdoch that is circulating on Twitter. The Guardian reported that Jonnie Marbles, an activist and comedian, has claimed responsibility for the stunt.
12:30 p.m.: Rupert Murdoch concluded by reading the prepared statement James Murdoch had tried to open with. "My son and I came here with great respect for all you," Murdoch said. "This is the most humble day of my career. After all that has happened, I know we need to be here today . . . . James and I would like to say how sorry we are for what has happened--especially with regard to listening to the voicemail of victims of crime."
You can read the rest here.
12:45 p.m.: After a short break, the resumed. Former News International chief and former News of the World and Sun editor Rebekah Brooks began her testimony with an apology and reference to her recent arrest. She said she has legal representation with her and will be constrained in some of her responses since she was recently placed under arrest for her connection to the scandal.
12:48 p.m.: Brooks said she only realized how serious the phone-hacking was when it was revealed the tabloid had hacked the voicemail account of the actress Sienna Miller.
12:50 p.m.: Tom Watson grilled Brooks. She said the Sun never worked with private detectives. "The use of private detectives in late 90s was a practice of Fleet Street," Brooks said. "I was aware News of the World used private detectives" under her editorship.
12:53 p.m.: Brooks explained how payments for private detectives are approved. The managing editor would sign off on the disbursements. "I can't remember if we ever discussed an individual payment," she said.
12:54 p.m.: Brooks said she never had any contact with Glenn Mulcaire, the detective jailed for phone hacking in 2007. She claimed Mulcaire would deny ever meeting her, too. "I didn't know Glenn Mulcaire. I never heard the name until 2006."
12:57 p.m.: P.I. Jonathan Rees "wasn't a name familiar with me" either. "I don't know what he did for News of the World," Brooks said. Tom Watson appeared utterly incredulous.
1:01 p.m.: Brooks: "My use of P.I.'s at News of the World was completely legitimate." She goes on to say that she can't remember the names of other P.I.s she used other than Steve Whittamore, Mulcaire and Rees.
1:03 p.m.: Brooks is asked if she has any regrets. "Of course I have regrets. The idea that Milly Dowler's phone was accessed by someone at NOTW is abhorrent to me. It is an ultimate regret that the speed with which we have [investigated] has been too slow."
1:10 p.m.: Brooks: "I'm not in a position to comment on other newspaper groups."
1:11 p.m.: Brooks is asked how she could not have known that these practices were endemic at News of the World. Brooks: "Going back to 2002-2003, the fact is, there was a root and branch change ... among most newspapers. I was then editor of the Sun and I can say absolutely that the Sun is a very clean ship, a great newsroom."
1:12 p.m.: "It was a collective decision," Brooks said about the closing of NOTW. "We all talked together." But what did she mean when she told the journalists that there would be "more to come" in terms of future revelations?
1:14 p.m.: Brooks: "NOTW used to lead the headlines for the right reasons, but for the last few years it's been leading the headlines for the wrong reasons. We felt [closing it] was the right decision. We've endeavored to find a job" for all the laid-off journalists from the paper.
1:17 p.m.: More from Olbermann on Twitter: "Rebekah Brooks caught herself, corrected "we" to "they," and then went right back to speaking in the present tense about NOTW."
1:18 p.m.: On to Milly Dowler, the murdered 13-year-old girl whose voicemail was allegedly tapped by NOTW reporters in 2002. How does a paper like NOTW report on such a big story? "Most stories start out with a reporter. ... Reporter and editor discuss the veracity of the information. Every paper gets a lot of info to the news desk and only a small percentage makes it to publication. There are many layers. Milly Dowler's disappearance was a terrible news story, covered by all papers for a very long time."
Brooks is asked how personally involved she was in the Milly Dowler story. "I would have been involved in the story over the many years."
More heavily involved with it than other stories? "Not particularly more or less involved."
1:24 p.m.: Brooks: "I believe the press had tried to respect the privacy of the family."
1:25 p.m.: Brooks says that the first time she heard Dowler's voicemail hacked was when the story first broke several weeks ago in the Guardian. "We saw the story the same tie you all saw the story. My instant reaction was one of shock and disgust. .. First thing I did was write to Mr. and Ms. Dowler with a full apology and told them we'd get to the bottom of it."
1:27 p.m.: Must be the case than an employee decided without her knowledge to pass knowledge about the Dowler case onto the police, yes?
1:30 p.m.: On Twitter, CNN's Piers Morgan jokes: "Rebekah Brooks (a great, and loyal friend) just been cut off from live #CNN USA coverage for President Obama speech. She won't be happy."
1:32 p.m.: Brooks: "I would take responsibility, absolutely. I really really do want to understand what happened."
1:40 p.m.: Brooks is pressed further about how she couldn't have known about the phone-hacking. "I can only tell this committee what I knew when I was editor of NOTW and editor of the Sun and as chief executive of News International." MP: "Well I'll suspend my incredulity again."
1:44 p.m.: Slate's Jack Shafer, via Twitter: "'Proactively.' Rebekah and James have been reading the same vocabulary builder."
1:47 p.m.: "Can you remember calling any editors after the Guardian's story in July 2009 to discuss how they might downplay the coverage?" an incredulous MP asked Brooks.
"No. I don't remember calling about it," she replied.
She also denied saying that Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger would be "down on his knees begging for forgiveness" for covering the phone hacking.
1:51 p.m.: Brooks questioned about Milly Dowler again. She reiterated that she finds the phone hacking of Dowler's voicemail "abhorrent."
1:56 p.m.: Brooks: "The newsroom of any newspaper is based on trust. You rely on the people that work for you to behave in a proper manner, and on the clarity of the information you are given at the time. That's why I can be so absolute with the committee about the interception about Milly Dowler's voicemail from my own personal views."
1:57 p.m.: Adweek's Alex Koppleman via Twitter: "Rebekah Brooks just admitted to keeping a diary. Seems like a dumb thing to admit when you're being investigated."
1:59 p.m.: Brooks was asked if there are any headlines she regrets.
"I don't think you'd find any editor on Fleet Street who didn't feel [they'd made mistakes] with headlines they've published. ... [But] I would defend the right of a free press for my entire career. ... We have a very diverse and robust press in this country and I think the freedom of that press should be ensured."
1:59 p.m.: Brooks said she spoke to James and Rupert Murdoch more often when she became chief of News International. "Quite regularly. On average, every other day."
2:05 p.m.: Brooks: "Mistakes were made, but I hope you would feel that we've responded appropriately" to the phone-hacking scandal.
2:07 p.m.: How often would she speak to or meet the prime ministers of recent years?
Brooks: "I did regularly go to Downing Street under Prime Ministers Brown and Blair." Maybe six times a year under Brown, similar under Blair. Said she has never been to Downing Street to meet Cameron, though a report that they've met 26 times during his tenure so far sounds accurate, she said. "I would not say any prime minister would say he thinks the Sun is not fighting for the right people." Prime ministers never pleaded for stories not to run, nor would she have spiked them had they done so and the story was true. "That's exactly why we have a free press."
2:12 p.m.: Brooks said the story about her horse riding with David Cameron is untrue. "There's a lot out there that isn't true, particularly with respect to my relationship with David Cameron." He is a friend and neighbor and their relationship is "completely appropriate," she said.
2:14 p.m.: What about gossip exchanges with Cameron? "In any social encounters with PM, any conversations were wholly appropriate," she said. Brooks also said News International didn't subsidize the salary of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson when he worked as Cameron's press secretary.
2:17 p.m.: Brooks: "NOTW has been singled out for that closeness [between journos and police] . . . . It is wholly unfair in discussing the closeness of police and politicians the media to single out NOTW."
2:19 p.m.: Brooks' closing remarks: "I know you've heard apologies from Rupert and James Murdoch, but I want to reiterate my own. The most important thing going forward is to discover the truth behind these allegations, particularly for Milly Dowler's family. I have one request, that when I am free from some of my legal constraints that you will invite me back so that I can answer in a more forceful way."