Rupert Murdoch has made 'passing the buck' an art form. During his three-hour grilling by MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport committee yesterday, he repeatedly shrugged off any suggestion of personal wrongdoing.
"People I've trusted - I'm saying not who, I don't know what level - have let me down and I think they behaved disgracefully, betrayed the company and me and it's for them to pay," he said.
As chairman and CEO of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch must assume ultimately responsible for the actions of his staff. There's a great piece on accountability by the FT's John Kay - well worth a read.
The phrase bandied about repeatedly yesterday was 'on my watch'. Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and Scotland Yard assistant commissioner John Yates both resigned - despite claiming ignorance of phone hacking - because they ultimately should have known and must take responsibility.
Murdoch has decided that a scapegoat strategy better suits his plans: we will no doubt see heads roll at News International over the next few weeks as the Murdochs continue to divert attention from their own culpability.
Rupert Murdoch is definitely guilty of one crime: he has created a culture whereby the old adage 'the end justifies the means' has become entrenched in his organisation. In order to get the scoop, beat other news titles and satisfy his own thirst for power, journalists in his employ felt compelled to cross lines of morality and decency.
This may sound grandiose. But the truth is that staff will follow their leader. Murdoch was no mere figurehead at the organisation (despite his claims at yesterday's hearing). He was a dominant force. It was his relentless ambition that brought about the wrongdoing at News of the World. As Murdoch said himself: "We're a very big company. I'm sure there are people who try to please me. That's human nature."
During yesterday's meeting, Adrian Sanders asked James Murdoch if he knew the meaning of the phrase 'wilful blindness'. Murdoch Jnr's response was almost comical. For once, lost for words, it was obvious he understood Sanders' inference.
'Wilful blindness' is a term used in law when an individual seeks to avoid civil or criminal liability for a wrongful act by intentionally putting himself in a position where he will be unaware of facts which would render him liable.
The term was used widely during the ENRON trial and reared its ungly head at yesterday's hearing. Murdoch claims that News of the World is but 1% of his vast business empire and that - despite the fact he speaks to the editor of the Sunday Times every week - he seldom had contact with the News of the World editorial team. If this is true, it could be symptomatic of wilful blindness.
"What did you talk about when you did speak to the editor? I am intrigued by how these conversations go," pushed Philip Davies. Murdoch mumbled into his chin about sports pages. "I ask what's doing," he says. Perhaps his wilful blindness is compounded by wilful dumbness and wilful deafness. See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.
The Murdochs have created a monster. News Corp has become a sprawling, self-regulating entity. In what other organisation could a £700,000 pay-off be issued without the chairman's knowledge? How could countless legal bills and salaries pass through company accounts without sanction? What other business owner could claim utter ignorance of long-standing libel cases within his firm?
Taking the man at his word, Rupert Murdoch is a bumbling fool within his own organisation. The endless "I don't know"s and heavy pauses are either evidence of a mind slackened with age, or the work of a consumate actor. Did Murdoch 'put an antic disposition on'. If so, he harnessed King Lear's madness well, playing a doddering fool to Olivier standard.
Rebekah Brooks finally resigned on July 15. The furore surrounding her knowledge of the phone-hacking scandal had raged unabated for weeks. Yet Murdoch saw fit to protect her, even at the expense of his own organisation.
When the Australian tycoon flew in to London to deal with the crisis a fortnight ago, he was asked: "What is your first priority?" by a BBC journalist. His responded by nodding at Brooks: "Her," he said. Murdoch even refused to accept Brooks' first resignation attempt a week ago. No other News International employee has been granted this kind of support. Not least Andy Coulson who quit back in January.
Despite the chronic failings at News Corp, Rupert Murdoch remains in situ. He clings onto his power like an ancient barnacle to a sea-blasted outcrop. When Louise Mensch asked: 'Have you considered resigning?' Murdoch responded simply: 'No'. This is one of the few moments of unadulterated truth from the whole session. It's clear that Murdoch would see endless staff and stake-holders sacrificed, but would never place his own head upon the block.
Rupert Murdoch contradicted himself time and time again during his testimony. Asked at one point if it is acceptable to 'take risks and break boundaries in order to get scoops', he replied: "There is no excuse to break the law at any time." Then, moments later, he added: "I think phone hacking is quite different," he said. "I believe investigative journalism - particularly competitive - does lead to a more transparent society."
He claimed to have no knowledge of the inner workings of the News of the World, then asserted: "To say we're hands-off is wrong. I work a ten or 12 hour day."
The hypocrisy sticks in your craw. Neverending
contradictions, meandering logic and evasion categorise Rupert
Murdoch's evidence yesterday and reveal much of how the breakdown
of ethics and legality at News of the World came