Press Association via AP Images
Press Association via AP Images
Forget cold—when it comes to the irreparably tarnished and rapidly imploding Murdoch media empire, revenge is best served in the form of a foam pie. Preferably delivered into the face of a frail billionaire during a globally watched hearing.
And wouldn't you know it? That's exactly what went down in a particularly exciting session of Parliament this morning (now there's a grouping of words we never thought we'd put together), when Rupert Murdoch nearly got a face full of schadenfreude all while doing everything he could to avoid jail steadfastly refusing to admit culpability in the scandal that's taken over Britain.
That's right. It had scandal, it had intrigue, it had an attack, it even had a mention of a movie star or two. In fact, it's exactly the sort of story the News of the World might trumpet on its front page. You know…if it was still around.
Instead, it was Rupert Murdoch and his son James who faced the firing squad of MPs during a hearing of Parliament this morning, taking turns answering (or, more accurately, not answering) questions about their now-defunct tabloid's wide-ranging, illegal and quite frankly deplorable phone-hacking scandal.
While the 80-year-old Rupert frequently deferred to his son to field the questions, he did pipe up to deny any responsibility for the scandal.
"No," he said, when asked if he should be held accountable. Instead, he placed blame on "the people that I trusted, but they blame maybe the people that they trusted."
Murdoch went on to note that he had extremely infrequent contact with the editor of the News of the World and tried to marginalize the tabloid in the grand scheme of his empire, saying it accounted for "less than one percent" of News Corp.
He also denied any knowledge of confidential settlements the paper had made with phone-hacking victims until a newspaper report in 2009, and said he was "shocked, appalled and ashamed" of some of the details that had been made public about the paper's criminal practices and called today "the most humble day of my life." However, he made a point of noting that he had seen no evidence (yet) that his paper had tapped into voicemails of 9/11 victims.
As for James, who began the hearing with an apology, he fielded most of the questions, including queries on how he and his father were coached heading into the session ("to tell the truth") and pressed for details on the finer points of how many people were in the know on the phone-hacking practices and subsequent cover-ups, including paying-off police.
After roughly two hours of testimony, one onlooker had had just about enough—luckily, he had come equipped to deal with just such a situation.
U.K. comedian and anarchist Jonnie Marbles is the man everyone will be talking about today, as he's the one who stepped forward from the viewing gallery and attempted to deliver the foam pie straight in the face of Rupert Murdoch. Kudos to James and Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng, for acting fast to stop the pieing. Not so much to the rest of the room, who largely sat by, unmoving, to watch the incident unfold.
Marbles was, of course, taken into custody immediately, but had been teasing his move on Twitter all morning.
"I'm actually in this committee and can confirm: Murdoch is Mr. Burns," he tweeted. "One gets the sense that they haven't really done the required reading ahead of this presentation…It might be quicker if Baby Murdoch simply listed all of the things that he does know #hackgate."
And then came the real showing of his hand.
"It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat."
The hearing resumed after the incident, at which point former NOTW editor Rebekah Brooks fielded questions. It was she who admitted that the Sienna Miller hacking claims, first brought back in 2010, was the real tipping point for the paper, and the point at which she realized the extent of the tapping.
"We had been told by people at News of the World at the time—they consistently denied any of these allegations in various internal investigations," she said. "It was only when we saw the Sienna Miller documentation that we realized the severity of the situation."
Better late than never? Not this time.