Murdoch’s right-hand woman in Britain resigns

posted at 1:30 pm on July 15, 2011 by Tina Korbe

At first, it appeared media mogul Rupert Murdoch just wouldn’t allow it. He looked on News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks almost as a daughter — and no growing phone-hacking scandal, no rousing resignation calls from every quarter would stand in the way of her continued service to the British subsidiary of his mega-conglomerate News Corp. But today, Brooks handed in her letter of resignation and Murdoch accepted it.

One of the most influential women in Britain until the scandal broke wide open last week, Brooks said in a statement that she was stepping down as chief executive of News International because she had become a “focal point” in the scandal and therefore a distraction to efforts to repair the damage. …

The company is the British subsidiary of Murdoch’s giant News Corp. and owns such storied titles as the Times of London and the Sun tabloid. Until this past Sunday, the weekly News of the World, Britain’s bestselling newspaper, was also one of the company’s holdings. But News International abruptly shut it down after 168 years of existence because of allegations that it ordered the hacking of cellphones belonging to a wide swath of British society, including celebrities, politicians and crime victims. …

The most explosive phone-hacking accusation emerged last week: that a private investigator hired by the paper illegally accessed and deleted voicemail messages belonging to a kidnapped girl named Milly Dowler in 2002. The 13-year-old was later found slain, but the deleted messages had given her family false hope that she was still alive, because they thought she erased the messages herself.

Brooks was editor of the News of the World at the time of the incident.

Brooks’ resignation is a solid fact among the emerging details of the phone hacking scandal, details that still seem too tenuous to serve as a solid basis for any kind of analysis or prediction as to what the consequences of the scandal might be for News Corp. More clarity on that might come with Murdoch and son’s impending appearance before Parliament or with the U.S.-based FBI investigation of the reported attempted hacking of the phones and voicemails of 9/11 victims, survivors and their families.

But even the implications of Brooks’ resignation aren’t completely clear. Does it mean she takes responsibility for the phone hacking? Or does it mean just what she said — that she doesn’t want to be a distraction as the company attempts to fix the “mistakes of the past”?

It’s possible the poor decision-making began and ended with individual journalists, but it could also be a sign of low journalistic standards companywide. That’s always been the criticism of Murdoch’s empire, after all — that it’s based on brilliant business strategies, but questionable journalism. Murdoch stands by News Corp. and says he’ll defend it from outright lies when he appears before Parliament. And at least one friend of Murdoch defends him as “a very honorable, honest man” who couldn’t possibly have had knowledge of the phone hacking. But competitors haven’t hesitated to try to drum up backlash to the growing story. Murdoch has a fight with few allies ahead, no doubt.

In the meantime, what Brooks wrote in her resignation letter serves as a potent reminder to all journalists that they don’t act in a vacuum, of the time-honored truth that “with freedom comes great responsibility.” “The reputation of the company we love so much, as well as the press freedoms we value so highly, are all at risk,” she wrote. Blatantly irresponsible journalism invites increased government intervention into the news media, a scary, scary prospect. I so hope the News International scandal was the work of a few and not symptomatic of any kind of company culture that could “justify” some kind of government crackdown in either Britain or here, where News Corp. is a publicly held company.


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But she was unemployed for so long!

rogerb on July 15, 2011 at 1:30 PM

Is she the redhead waiting in the unemployment line?

Colbyjack on July 15, 2011 at 1:32 PM

And you know darn well that this is on the top of Holder’s agenda.

Knucklehead on July 15, 2011 at 1:35 PM

How much of this is Obama failing, so complicit media targets Murdoch?

publiuspen on July 15, 2011 at 1:36 PM

details that still seem too tenuous to serve as a solid basis for any kind of analysis or prediction as to what the consequences of the scandal might be for News Corp

Go tell NPR. It’s wall to wall coverage with “Fox News” and “Murdoch” mentioned as often as possible. Murdoch and Newscorp are already history if you listen to them.

forest on July 15, 2011 at 1:37 PM

What about the Metropolitan police…?

d1carter on July 15, 2011 at 1:39 PM

Colbyjack on July 15, 2011 at 1:32 PM

Nah, thats Fiona, but Rebeka will be joining her. (isn’t that spelled with two c’s?)

dogsoldier on July 15, 2011 at 1:39 PM

If she knew about the hacking she had to go, and if she didn’t know about it she had to go because she should have known about it.

As for the 9/11 claims, I’m skeptical – that would mean hacking was going on in the US four years before the first known instances in Britain (timeline here) – and nothing’s leaked out in all this time? Anything’s possible the way this affair has unfolded, but I think the 9/11 stuff is Dems and the left throwing mud and hoping something sticks.

EnglishMike on July 15, 2011 at 1:40 PM

That Ginger just can’t catch a break…

Seven Percent Solution on July 15, 2011 at 1:41 PM

And you know darn well that this is on the top of Holder’s agenda.

Knucklehead on July 15, 2011 at 1:35 PM

Doesn’t he have his own Fast and Furious scandal so much that he maybe castaway?

Colbyjack on July 15, 2011 at 1:41 PM

That’s always been the criticism of Murdoch’s empire, after all — that it’s based on brilliant business strategies, but questionable journalism.

How are they worse then other journolists?!

the_nile on July 15, 2011 at 1:43 PM

It’s possible the poor decision-making began and ended with individual journalists, but it could also be a sign of low journalistic standards companywide. That’s always been the criticism of Murdoch’s empire, after all — that it’s based on brilliant business strategies, but questionable journalism.

Can we have some specific examples, please?

I so hope the News International scandal was the work of a few and not symptomatic of any kind of company culture that could “justify” some kind of government crackdown in either Britain or here, where News Corp. is a publicly held company.

I find this comment to be seriously irritating. I’m quite sure this wasn’t part of the culture of News Corp! But that won’t stop the Left from trying to shut down their operation. Move On and Uncut and every lefty group under the sun have been agitating to stop the SkyNews deal for months now (I know this because I see the petitions on Facebook). Media Matters works day and night to assault Fox News. And of course we’re all familiar with the White House’s war on Fox. I really would prefer that Hot Air err on the side of presuming that NewsCorp has integrity (with Fox News as a shining example) and not let our imaginations run away with them just because opportunists/Dem operatives like Client #9 make baseless, politically motivated charges.

Buy Danish on July 15, 2011 at 1:44 PM

rogerb on July 15, 2011 at 1:30 PM

LOL!..:)

Dire Straits on July 15, 2011 at 1:44 PM

As for the 9/11 claims, I’m skeptical – that would mean hacking was going on in the US four years before the first known instances in Britain (timeline here) – and nothing’s leaked out in all this time? Anything’s possible the way this affair has unfolded, but I think the 9/11 stuff is Dems and the left throwing mud and hoping something sticks.

EnglishMike on July 15, 2011 at 1:40 PM

If only Murdoch was muslim , then they would put the lid on these speculations…

the_nile on July 15, 2011 at 1:45 PM

Sorry – [and not let our imaginations run away with us]

Buy Danish on July 15, 2011 at 1:45 PM

Doesn’t he have his own Fast and Furious scandal so much that he maybe castaway?

Colbyjack on July 15, 2011 at 1:41 PM

What? Fast and Furious?

I can’t hear you/

Knucklehead on July 15, 2011 at 1:47 PM

international criminal enterprise.

sesquipedalian on July 15, 2011 at 1:50 PM

mythicknight on July 15, 2011 at 1:46 PM

News Corp. executives are at risk of being found criminally or civilly liable for phone hacking that originated in Britain under the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and they are at risk under federal wire-tapping and state privacy laws if it is found that U.S. citizens such as Sept. 11 victims were targeted, experts say.

That is a huge stretch of the law (they’d have to find bribery), and I doubt it will go anywhere. But then again I’m far more concerned with the integrity of our FBI under our DOJ than I am with NewsCorp. So there will be a lot of noise about it…

Buy Danish on July 15, 2011 at 1:53 PM

international criminal enterprise.
sesquipedalian on July 15, 2011 at 1:50 PM

Are you mumbling about ACORN? Barack Obama’s fundraising activities in 2008? Operation Fast and Furious?

Buy Danish on July 15, 2011 at 1:55 PM

I hope Murdoch does whatever it takes, throws whatever overseas media operations and personnel necessary under the bus, in order to protect FNC. It’s too important.

Raisedbywolves on July 15, 2011 at 1:55 PM

nontroversy

Aquateen Hungerforce on July 15, 2011 at 1:55 PM

international criminal enterprise.

sesquipedalian on July 15, 2011 at 1:50 PM

The Obama Administration is an International Criminal Enterprise.

portlandon on July 15, 2011 at 1:55 PM

If News of the World was employing private investigators to do this, so was every other media outlet in Britain. I think this story will go away because I think there are too many people at too many other outlets (including the BBC!) who have too much to lose if the scandal widens.

Rational Thought on July 15, 2011 at 2:00 PM

Go tell NPR. It’s wall to wall coverage with “Fox News” and “Murdoch” mentioned as often as possible. Murdoch and Newscorp are already history if you listen to them.

forest on July 15, 2011 at 1:37 PM

I want an investigation of how what amounts to the Bob Beckel show replaced Glenn Beck at 5pm. Heads should roll. They had months to plan a replacement strategy, and that’s what they came up with???

slickwillie2001 on July 15, 2011 at 2:01 PM

Isn’t Hacker Julian Assange the Darling of The Progressive Left? No doubt Client #9 is agitating for his conviction.

Buy Danish on July 15, 2011 at 2:01 PM

If News of the World was employing private investigators to do this, so was every other media outlet in Britain. I think this story will go away because I think there are too many people at too many other outlets (including the BBC!) who have too much to lose if the scandal widens.
Rational Thought on July 15, 2011 at 2:00 PM

I tend to think you’re right.

Buy Danish on July 15, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Are you mumbling about ACORN? Barack Obama’s fundraising activities in 2008? Operation Fast and Furious?

Buy Danish on July 15, 2011 at 1:55 PM

don’t forget the fluoride in our water supply!

sesquipedalian on July 15, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Well, if someone did try to hack the 9/11 phones, the statute of limitations has had to run. Therefore, why investigate?

Blake on July 15, 2011 at 2:06 PM

I want an investigation of how what amounts to the Bob Beckel show replaced Glenn Beck at 5pm. Heads should roll. They had months to plan a replacement strategy, and that’s what they came up with???

slickwillie2001 on July 15, 2011 at 2:01 PM

This.

What were they thinking? Epic failure.

Knucklehead on July 15, 2011 at 2:09 PM

The lefty BBC and the Guardian has been pushing this story. However, no one ever goes after them for their crap. An interesting comment from another blog:

The Guardian published stolen documents obtained via Wikileaks which put at risk the lives of US, UK and various of our allies fighting terrorism. It gave those terrorist groups information helpful to them in attacking our forces and those of our allies fighting them.

The Guardian ran agents of the Soviet Union as reporters.

The Guardian recruited a propagandist for Hizb ut Tahrir and published his piece “We rock the boat” after the 9/11 outrages. It only sacked him after days of overwhelming criticism from readers and from other press.

The Guardian ran campaigns aimed at influencing the outcome of US elections. It was only its stupidity and incompetence that ensured its campaigns backfired.

The Guardian ran the anti-semitic video “Seven Children” on its website over many months, and has never been willing to acknowledge the anti-semitism in that content.

The Guardian ran Charlotte Raven’s “Sorry, but the US had it coming” article in the days after 9/11. This was at a time when the victims’ families still didn’t know what had happened to their loved ones, or were in the first shock of intense grief, and some of those families were UK families. It sneered at their fate and that of their loved ones– and in my book, that’s as bad as and arguably worse than hacking Millie Dowler’s phone and the other grotesque examples of phone hacking that NoTW went in for.

http://hurryupharry.org/2011/07/15/the-much-longed-for-new-ni-thread/#comments

Blake on July 15, 2011 at 2:12 PM

The thing to remember about Murdoch is that he is not a conservative (and his sons are flaming liberals). Murdoch hosted a fund-raiser for Hillaty for President in 2007.

Murdoch is a capitalist. FNC is center-right (not truly conservative) because that’s where the viewers are. If CNN were interested in profits, it would challenge FNC on the right and not use the FNC formula (same old every night).

If Murdoch thought he could make more money converting FNC to the Gay Chess Channel, he’d be out looking for a team he could build around Shep Smith and Carl Cameron.

bw222 on July 15, 2011 at 2:13 PM

And at least one friend of Murdoch defends him as “a very honorable, honest man” who couldn’t possibly have had knowledge of the phone hacking.

Tina

He’s known as the ‘Dirty Digger’ for reason. Also, you forgot to mention the bribing of officials including police which should catch the attention of US officials and the Digger’s campaign to change the US laws on bribery and foreign officials. The Slapper already acknowledged some of these practices and it is interesting that The Dirty Digger closed down News of the Screws but kept the Slapper on hand hoping the whole thing would boil over.

The Dirty Digger is the first person to be summoned to Parliament since the Maxwell boys… another problem media mogul who looted employee pension funds. This is much more than one paper and a few journos digging dirt… I suspect this will grow and have implications in the US as well as the UK. This is an important story which deserves more than a fluff piece.

lexhamfox on July 15, 2011 at 2:14 PM

don’t forget the fluoride in our water supply!
sesquipedalian on July 15, 2011 at 2:04 PM

The only people I know who are concerned with that (and I do personally know crazy anti-fluoride activists) are on your team. But that has nothing to do with a criminal enterprise so what’s the point of your comment?

That’s always been the criticism of Murdoch’s empire, after all — that it’s based on brilliant business strategies, but questionable journalism.

Here’s a list of NewsCorp’s publishing empire. The products range from tabloidy stuff like The Sun to the Times Literary Supplement and the Wall Street Journal.

If we stipulate that tabloids are a lower form of journalism, how are they “questionable”? People want it, they buy it. Supply and demand and all that. Meanwhile The New York Times engages in questionable journalism on a daily basis but I don’t hear conservatives demanding it be shut down. Beyond their slanted opinion pages, journalists like James Risen and Dana Priest (WaPo) expose not tawdry gossip, but state secrets – with impunity.

Buy Danish on July 15, 2011 at 2:20 PM

The thing to remember about Murdoch is that he is not a conservative (and his sons are flaming liberals).

bw222 on July 15, 2011 at 2:13 PM

You’re right. While I’ve read criticisms from him of Obama, he also gave Obama a tongue bath before the 2008 election.

Blake on July 15, 2011 at 2:27 PM

But she was unemployed for so long!

rogerb on July 15, 2011 at 1:30 PM

OMG…that’s hilarious. I totally know what you meant by that! :-D

SouthernGent on July 15, 2011 at 2:28 PM

Blake on July 15, 2011 at 2:12 PM

Thanks for posting that. We have to be very, very careful about politically motivated prosecutions.

That is not to say that what happened with the phone hacking was not reprehensible or criminal. Just that I don’t like the unsubstantiated innuendo about the NewsCorp empire at large – that they are “questionable” journalists or that there is a “culture” which encourages this sort of behavior.

Buy Danish on July 15, 2011 at 2:32 PM

The Dirty Digger is the first person to be summoned to Parliament since the Maxwell boys…
lexhamfox on July 15, 2011 at 2:14 PM

Yes. Because David Cameron has to save his own ass – exhibiting all the officially sanctioned methods of public outrage.

Buy Danish on July 15, 2011 at 2:36 PM

That is not to say that what happened with the phone hacking was not reprehensible or criminal. Just that I don’t like the unsubstantiated innuendo about the NewsCorp empire at large – that they are “questionable” journalists or that there is a “culture” which encourages this sort of behavior.

Buy Danish on July 15, 2011 at 2:32 PM

Yes , it’s a dangerous illusion that there’s a large group of good journalists out there. Most of them are following a hidden agenda.
It did take a tabloid to expose John Edwards, when the “serious” media covered it up.
So most journalists are dirty.

the_nile on July 15, 2011 at 2:56 PM

international criminal enterprise.

sesquipedalian on July 15, 2011 at 1:50 PM

The Obama Administration is an International Criminal Enterprise.

portlandon on July 15, 2011 at 1:55 PM

QotD, every day

Schadenfreude on July 15, 2011 at 3:25 PM

the_nile on July 15, 2011 at 2:56 PM

What journalists at Fox News “covered up” the facts about John Edwards? Indeed, it took the Enquirer to rifle through his dirty laundry, so if Fox part of a “culture” like the journalists at News of the World they would have been more likely to break the story and not rely on the National Enquirer, wouldn’t they now?

Buy Danish on July 15, 2011 at 4:42 PM

How much of this is Obama failing, so complicit media targets Murdoch?

let me see, Obama fails causing Ruppert’s top CEO and editors to resign in disgrace … might as well blame solar flare-ups on Obama and of course Obama was the second shooter on the grassy knoll.

But it is NICE to FINALLY see hotair at least post something about this increasing scandal, I thought they were ignoring it like Fox news. But when your bosses ass is on fire you want to make sure you don’t add gasoline.

Monkei on July 15, 2011 at 5:47 PM