Rupert Murdoch, the chief of News Corporation at the center of the cell phone hacking scandal, had his suit splattered with shaving foam after a protester hurled a foil pie aiming for his face during a hearing with British lawmakers Tuesday followed by a call by Prime Minister David Cameron to move on to “issues that matter.”
Murdoch, the chairman and CEO of News Corp., the world’s second-largest media conglomerate in terms of revenue, escaped the brunt of the attack as a group of people including his wife Wendi Deng fought off the man who rushed forward from the public gallery two hours into the hearing session, according to BBC.
The attacker was identified as 26-year-old Jonathan May-Bowles, a member of the opposition Labour Party. Just before the incident, he tweeted under the account Jonny Marbles: “It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat,” which resembles a quotation from the last sentence of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
May-Bowles was arrested and his party membership suspended, BBC reported.
The hearing was part of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee of the House of Commons. It was held in central London two weeks after Murdoch had to shut down his British tabloid News of the World following allegations that its employees illegally hacked into the cell phones of celebrities, politicians and others, including terror attack victims and a 13-year-old girl who was murdered, and paid bribes to police.
Earlier at the hearing, Murdoch said his appearance before the inquiry was “the most humble day of my life.” However, the 80-year-old media baron pleaded not guilty saying his only fault was that he trusted the wrong people and was not aware of the interceptions.
Murdoch had his son James sitting alongside who told the parliamentarians that News of the World’s actions “do not live up to the standards our company aspires to. I would like to say as well, just how sorry I am, and how sorry we are to particularly the victims of illegal voicemail interceptions and to their families.”
Hours after the attack, Cameron, who cut short his Africa tour and arrived in London late Tuesday, said he wanted to address the issues that “really matter” to Britons, indicating he would make an attempt to bring an end to the furor over the phone hacking scandal, British daily The Telegraph reported. “I think it is important for the British Prime Minister to get on with those things that really matter for Britain,” he was quoted as saying.
Cameron was expected on Wednesday to announce the terms of reference for a judicial inquiry into the phone hacking issue focusing on media ethics and the relationship between the press, politicians, and the police.
“However, the Prime Minister is now understood to believe that the intense furore over the scandal should subside and the inquiry – and police investigation – should work in a less ‘frenzied’ environment,” The Telegraph reported.
Cameron is also under fire as his communications director, Andy Coulson, is former editor of the now-defunct News of the World.
The allegation that the tabloid employees had engaged in phone hacking of celebrities, politicians, and members of the British Royal Family surfaced in 2006. The issue shot to prominence while News Corp. was attempting to take over British Sky Broadcasting in July 2011, when it came to fore that the victims of the phone hacking included a murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, families of deceased British soldiers, and even victims of the 7/7 London bombings.
The revelations caused concerns also in the United States as News Corp. has its headquarters in America and operates numerous media outlets. Bloomberg reported on July 15 that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had begun a probe into whether employees tried to hack the phones of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “We’re aware of certain allegations pertaining to a possible hacking by News Corp. personnel and we’re looking into those charges,” FBI spokesperson Jim Margolin was quoted as saying.