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Rupert Murdoch phone-hacking scandal: US connections grow

In London Saturday, Rupert Murdoch issued full-page apologies for the phone-hacking scandal that has hit his media empire. Critics say his free-wheeling and politically conservative approach may have affected US journalism as well.

By Staff writer / July 16, 2011

The Times, Sun, Guardian, Financial Times, Independent, Daily Mail, and Daily Telegraph newspapers are displayed featuring an apology from News Corp chairman and chief executive officer Rupert Murdoch, in London Saturday. News Corp is trying to quell the uproar over a phone-hacking scandal that has shaken the company and claimed its top two newspaper executives.

Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

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Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is used to ruling his vast publishing and broadcasting empire with transcontinental authority.

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But today, he finds himself in an unusual and no doubt uncomfortable position: Having to issue a series of apologies for his organization’s “serious wrongdoing” as he watches some of his top lieutenants leave under fire.

Meanwhile, critics muse that Mr. Murdoch’s free-wheeling and politically conservative hand in British reporting may have influenced American journalism as well – particularly in the well-regarded Wall Street Journal, whose parent company Dow Jones was acquired by Murdoch’s News Corp. in 2007.

In seven national newspapers Saturday, Murdoch apologized to the British public for the unethical and possibly illegal activities his now-defunct Sunday tabloid News of the World carried out in the name of journalism – including charges of phone hacking and bribery of police officials.

"We are sorry," Murdoch says in full-page ads, which are scheduled to run Sunday and Monday as well. "The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself. We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected."

A day earlier, Murdoch met personally with the family of Milly Dowler, the murdered British teenager whose cell phone voice mail allegedly was hacked by News of the World employees.

"He apologized many times,” Mark Lewis, the Dowler family's lawyer, told the Guardian. “I don't think anybody could have held their head in their hands so many times.”

It was a big change from just days earlier, when Murdoch told the Wall Street Journal that News Corp. had handled the crisis "extremely well in every way possible," making just "minor mistakes."

The scandal already had crossed the Atlantic with news this week that the FBI is investigating whether victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States and their families were subject to phone hacking from Murdoch's News Corp.

It’s been reported (although without proof) that a private investigator and former New York City police officer was offered payment for information about 9/11 victims.

"If these allegations are proven true," Rep. Peter King (R) of New York, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, wrote to FBI Director Robert Mueller, "the conduct would merit felony charges for attempting to violate various federal statutes related to corruption of public officials and prohibitions against wiretapping.”

Senators John Rockefeller (D) of West Virginia, Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey, and Bob Menendez (D) of New Jersey have called for an investigation as well.

"Given the large scope of Scotland Yard's investigation which reportedly includes a list of 3,870 names, 5,000 land-line phone numbers and 4,000 cell phone numbers that may have been hacked, I believe it is imperative to investigate whether victims in the United States have been affected as well,” Senator Menendez wrote to US Attorney General Eric Holder.

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