If it were up to Hugh Grant, there'd be an awfully big investigation.
The British heartthrob, who helped police bring down a former News of the World editor by taping their conversation about illegal eavesdropping, offered up his thoughts on the phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed Rupert Murdoch's media empire.
In an interview with Matt Lauer on Wednesday morning's Today, the 50-year-old Grant admits it's "terrifying" to see the extent to which Murdoch's minions at News of the World and possibly other publications have gone to get inside dirt on celebrities such as himself, musicians and politicians.
But the thesp noted that what really has sparked outrage among people in the U.K.—where much of the lawbreaking has taken place—was a Guardian story reporting that News of the World employees hacked into the phone of a 13-year-old girl who had been abducted and murdered, giving her family false hope that she was still alive.
Such shocking revelations—apparently just the tip of the iceberg—has stirred a backlash and demands for a criminal probe both in Great Britain and in the U.S. into the Aussie mogul's business dealings, which Grant has said has been long overdue.
"The police unfortunately deliberately dragged their feet...and the government were also equally terrified of [Murdoch]," said the actor. "He had the power through his papers to get them elected and his paper knew dirty details about individual MPs, so they were unwilling ever to take them on. Only three weeks ago, all our major politicians in this country were sucking up to Rupert Murdoch and drinking champagne on his lawn at his summer party. So it's almost comic that today in Parliament they're all competing to say he's a terrible person."
Murdoch, his son and eventual successor James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, the disgraced former editor of the now-shuttered News, have been asked to appear before Parliament as part of an official
dog and pony show inquiry, but it's unclear if they'll accept the invitation.
"I have to say I think it's unlikely. But if they do, it will be the greatest piece of parliamentary theater we've ever had in this country," said Grant.
When asked by Lauer why people in the U.S. should care about the drama across the pond, the Four Weddings and a Funeral star noted it concerns Americans as well given Murdoch's ownership of a large chunk of American media—from the conservative-leaning Fox News and the influential and respected Wall Street Journal to the more tabloidy New York Post and Fox Broadcasting and 20th Century Fox studios.
"I would've thought it was of interest to Americans simply because Rupert Murdoch does own an enormous amount of your media," he said. "I think people need to ask themselves who is this man who owns such a large part of our media."
Grant added as well that reports that Murdoch papers may have hacked into the phones of 9/11 victims may add fuel to the fire (the story is also prompting some U.S. politicians to call for an inquiry here).
"That may strike a chord with America," he added.
The controversy over potential illegal activity on the part of Murdoch's media outlets has taken a devastating toll on News Corp.'s reputation as well as worldwide businesses. Not only was Murdoch forced to close down News of the World, but now the conglomerate has dropped its $12 billion bid to snap up the U.K.'s BSkyB pay-TV channel after British politicians vowed to oppose the deal.