Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, and Rebekah Brooks pretend they're the ultimate phone-hacking victims.

Media criticism.
July 19 2011 6:12 PM

Who Framed the Murdochs?

Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch pretend they're the victims of unscrupulous employees.

James Murdoch.
James Murdoch

In five hours of hearings before a parliamentary committee today, witnesses Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, and Rebekah Brooks attempted to convince the world that they have been framed by their former News of the World employees.

The trio never accused anybody by name, but they repeatedly portrayed themselves as victims of phone-hacking underlings. They knew nothing of the practice, they claimed, until their reporter Clive Goodman of News of the World and private detective Glenn Mulcaire were charged and went to jail in 2007 for hacking the phones of "royal" family staffers. As Brooks explained, she wasn't aware that current News of the World staffers were still hacking until actor Sienna Miller filed a civil suit against the paper and she saw the documents in December.

When asked which senior staffers had lied to her about phone-hacking practices, Brooks retreated.

"Unfortunately, because of the criminal procedure, I'm not sure that it's possible to infer guilt until those criminal procedures have taken place," she said.

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Working from the same victim's playbook, Rupert Murdoch repelled a similar line of questioning during his gentle interrogation from MP Tom Watson. Who lied to you about phone-hacking, Watson asked.

"I don't know. That is what the police are investigating and that is what I am looking into," said the genocidal tyrant.

Who was responsible for the scandal? You?

"No," Murdoch said. "The people I trusted and the people they trusted," he expanded, making an even stronger bid for victimhood, but once again not naming the trusted. If police were listening closely, there is one suspect Murdoch wants them to strike from the list. He stated unequivocally, "I don't think Mr. Hinton misled me."

Although Murdoch, Murdoch, and Brooks wanted the committee to know how completely they had been betrayed and misled by their underlings, they weren't prepared to rat out any of them. That's an awkward kind of Omertà. Aren't the soldiers supposed to go to jail for the dons? Isn't that the direction loyalty is supposed to flow? Or was today just not the best day to book the proper middle-manager rooms in prison?

James Murdoch kept apologizing, saying he was sorry and filled with regrets and frustrated by the scandal, saying that the hacking was "inexcusable." But if he's really a betrayal victim, what does he have to apologize for?