Brooks Resigns Over Phone-Hacking Scandal

Rebekah Brooks has resigned as chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's embattled British newspapers. She is the biggest casualty so far in the phone hacking scandal at a Sunday British tabloid. News Corp. says Tom Mockridge is her replacement.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

The fallout from the scandal in Rupert Murdoch's media empire is now unfolding on both sides of the Atlantic. There's been a major development in Great Britain this morning, and the FBI has opened an investigation here in the United States. Joining us now is NPR's David Folkenflik. He's been tracking this story from London. He's now back in New York. Hi David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Good morning, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So let me start with this major development we mentioned. Word from London, this morning, that Rebekah Brooks has resigned.

FOLKENFLIK: Yes, Rebekah Brooks, she's the chief executive of News International, that's the British newspaper division of News Corp., the Murdoch empire. She has had a constituency of about two people: Rupert Murdoch and his son, James, who oversees European operations there. The reason why is that she was the editor-in-chief of the News of the World, the tabloid at the heart of this enormous phone-mail hacking and police bribery scandal. And she also was the head of News International at the time that this scandal metastasized, and there's questions about whether that division has been candid with authorities. She's being replaced by the top executive at Sky TV Italia - notably, not a British division.

KELLY: And there had been huge pressure on her to go. She has now, as we say, resigned this morning. Let's turn to the FBI investigation, which we understand is under way here. How does what the FBI's investigating compare to the investigations under way in Britain?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, the allegations are more thinly sourced. It's not clear what happened, exactly. There was an allegation in a rival tabloid in Britain, that some News of the World journalists approached a former police officer to try to get information on 9/11 victims here in New York.

Peter King, congressman from Long Island, asked the director of the FBI to do an investigation. They have announced that they will start that off. It's being done, as we understand, in consultation with Scotland Yard, so it's very preliminary and very early going. And to be clear, the allegations are not as widespread, or as substantiated, as what is said to have occurred in the U.K.

KELLY: Now, Rupert Murdoch gave an interview today - or that's in today's Wall Street Journal, a newspaper that he owns, that's part of the News Corp. empire we're talking about. What all did he have to say?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, it was a slightly charged interview. He said News Corp. has handled the crisis extremely well in every possible way - that's a quote - aside from what he acknowledged to be a couple of minor mistakes. He had great praise for...

KELLY: Minor mistakes, really?

FOLKENFLIK: Exactly. He had great praise for his son, James', handling of it. He said some charges in Parliament were total lies - some things said about News Corp., total lies, and he intended to confront that. And he particularly singled out Gordon Brown, former prime minister who had a very heartfelt, 30-minute tirade against News Corp. the other day in Parliament. He said Gordon Brown got it wrong.

KELLY: Hmm. So fighting words from Rupert Murdoch. But surely his status, the status of the whole Murdoch empire has been damaged significantly - particularly in Great Britain - since this scandal began.

FOLKENFLIK: Oh, I think that's absolutely true. They've gone from a family that is feared and courted publicly, even if often denounced privately, to, you know, almost a public enemy, rhetorically, number one - for the British Parliament unified against the Murdoch empire.

And there's really no better sign than the capitulation yesterday - a u-turn, as it's called - by both Murdochs to request to appear before parliamentary inquiry to testify. Rebekah Brooks had agreed to testify. She's a British citizen and could be compelled. James and Rupert Murdoch are naturalized American citizens; wouldn't have to do that. But suddenly yesterday, Mr. Murdoch and his son, James, when summoned by receiving a formal summons from parliament, agreed that they, too, would submit to questioning. So they are yielding to political powers and pressures that at one time they, themselves, were able to influence in very different directions.

KELLY: David, thanks very much.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

KELLY: That's NPR's David Folkenflik, reporting from New York on a scandal that shows no sign of dying down.

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