Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host: And I'm Michele Norris. An update now on a story we've been following closely: the voicemail hacking scandal involving Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Murdoch and his son James seem to have won some important corporate backing. But as NPR's David Folkenflik reports, there are new questions about how much senior executives knew.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Start with good news for James Murdoch, who oversees News Corp's operations in the U.K., Europe and Asia. News Corp holds 39 percent of the giant British broadcaster BSkyB and he is also that company's chairman. Its board just gave him a vote of confidence. Don Yackman is president of Yackman Asset management Company in Texas. News Corp is its largest investment.

DON YACKMAN: If one looks at the very long-term track record, I think one has to be pretty impressed with the overall building of this enterprise. I mean, any human being will make mistakes.

FOLKENFLIK: But in the court of public opinion, those mistakes are adding up. British police have now told the mother of a slain eight year old girl, Sarah Payne, that her mobile phone may have been targeted for hacking by a private investigator for the now-closed tabloid News of the World. Police also say that phone was given to her 11 years ago by Rebekah Brooks, then the paper's editor. She had started an anti-pedophile crusade in the girl's name and the phone was supposed to help the mother in aiding the paper.

PAUL CONNEW: In reputational terms, it's a disaster.

FOLKENFLIK: That's Paul Connew, a former deputy editor of News of the World, speaking to the BBC.

CONNEW: The mere fact that it seems possible that she may have been hacked by other people at the News of the World of all papers in fact, you know, is just, is just, you know, shocking.

FOLKENFLIK: Brooks resigned two weeks ago as News Corp's chief British newspaper executive. She denied any knowledge and called it abhorrent. Yet today, Glen Mulcaire, the disgraced private investigator, said he always acted at the behest of others there. Mulcaire has already served time in jail for hacking into the cellphone voicemail messages of the royals and their associates for stories. Last week, James Murdoch testified at a Parliamentary hearing he believed that that was an isolated case and said he was unaware of a wider problem until a lawsuit in 2010. But two years earlier, Murdoch approved a million pound confidential payment to the head of the professional soccer players association. Labour MP Tom Watson asked about that.

TOM WATSON: When you signed off the Taylor payment, did you see or were you made aware of the for Neville email, the transcript of the hacked voicemail message?

FOLKENFLIK: Neville - is Neville Thurlbeck, the former chief reporter for News of the World. The for Neville email was a damning memo obtained by lawyers suing the company showing that the tabloid's senior executives were deeply enmeshed in widespread phone hacking. So, let's hear Watson's question again, and James Murdoch's response.

WATSON: When you signed off the Taylor payment, did you see or were you made aware of the for Neville email, the transcript of the hacked voicemail message?

JAMES MURDOCH: No, no. I was not aware of that at the time.

FOLKENFLIK: Watson then effectively asks if the settlement was meant to hush up a wider problem.

WATSON: But you paid an astronomical sum and there was no reason to.

MURDOCH: There was every reason to settle the case, given the likelihood of losing the case and given the damages that we had received counsel would be levied.

FOLKENFLIK: But the former top lawyer for News of the World and its final editor-in-chief now say they shared that incriminating information with him. James Murdoch stands by his testimony. But the younger Murdoch has been unable to explain the contradiction, and he may well be called for another round of parliamentary questioning. David Folkenflik, NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: