Rupert Murdoch emerges from Parliament hearing intact–even if we’re no closer to the truth

Dylan Stableford & Joe Pompeo

He began by calling it the "most humble day of his life," often stammering, and he dodged a plate of shaving cream--an attack foiled with the help of his wife--in the middle. But after nearly three hours of grilling from a select committee of Parliament alongside his son, Rupert Murdoch (and News Corp.) emerged from the House of Commons in a better place than he entered it.

This, despite the fact that we are no closer to tapping into the truth of the phone hacking scandal now than we were six hours ago.

Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, the ousted News International chief and former editor of News of the World and the Sun, came to the select committee hearing prepared with News Corp.-approved of talking points: We're sorry, we didn't know, and we're cooperating.

"This is a matter of huge and sincere regret [on behalf of] me and my father," James Murdoch said at the beginning of his testimony. "What happened at News of the World was wrong. We have apologized profusely, my father has as well. The company has admitted liability."

"Are you aware of the term 'willful blindness'?" Adrian Sanders, a Parliament liberal, fired back at one point.

"I've heard that before," Rupert Murdoch said. "And we were not ever guilty of that."

To their credit, the Murdochs answered nearly all of the questions tossed at them by members of Parliament, rarely hiding behind the shield of an "ongoing criminal investigation" into the phone hacking that occurred underneath, to the side, or all around them, depending on who believe.

Murdoch--who, according to Bloomberg, News Corp. board members had reportedly considered replacing on the eve of the Parliament appearance--was as contrite as Rupert Murdoch can be (admitting he "perhaps lost sight of" News of the World, for instance), except it came to the question of responsibility.

"No," the elder Murdoch said when asked if when he was asked if he was ultimately responsible for the phone hacking that had gone on under his watch.

Who is responsible, then?  After all, Rupert earlier testified "anything that is seen as a crisis comes to me."

"The people I trusted, and the people they trusted," Murdoch said.

Later, after the shaving cream attack, he said: "I think that quite frankly, I'm the best person to lead this company."

Wall Street apparently agreed. Shares of News Corp., which fell 8 percent last week, climbed more than 6.5 percent on Tuesday afternoon, ending the day up 5.5 percent at market's close.

"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, referring to the PR firm he hired.

When Brooks took the hot seat around 12:45 p.m., she acknowledged she was aware News of the World employed private detectives for news-gathering purposes under her editorship, saying payments to such contractors would have been approved by her managing editor at the time. "My use of private investigators at News of the World was completely legitimate," she said.

Milly Dowler, the name that touched off this latest and most fiery chapter in the phone-hacking saga, came up throughout Brooks' testimony.

"The idea that Milly Dowler's phone was accessed by someone at News of the World is abhorrent to me," said Brooks, maintaining that she first learned of the allegations that News of the World journalists had accessed Dowler's voicemails when the revelation was initially reported several weeks ago: "The 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." (Brooks was the editor at the time the alleged transgression occurred.)

Brooks also pushed back on the suggestion that News of the World was perhaps cozier with the police and political establishment than others paper on Fleet Street.

"News of the World has been singled out for that closeness," she said. "It is wholly unfair."

And she appeared more willing than her former boss to accept personal--if not legal--responsibility should the various phone-hacking probes underway confirm some of the criminal undertakings that are said to have transpired under her watched.

"I would take responsibility, absolutely. I really really do want to understand what happened," she said, later adding: "The most important thing going forward is to discover the truth behind these allegations, particularly for Milly Dowler's family."

For a minute-by-minute report on the testimonies, head over to our live-blog.