News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch held his head in his hands as he met the parents of a murdered schoolgirl whose phone his journalists hacked, telling them he had fallen below his parents’ standards, according to the family’s lawyer.
“I said I was appalled to find out what happened,” Murdoch said after meeting the Dowler family. “I apologized and I have nothing else to say.”
The July 4 revelation that reporters working for the News of the World had in 2002 deleted messages from the voicemail of missing schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, turned the phone-hacking saga from something that interested a few lawmakers to a national scandal. In the 11 days since, it has cost Murdoch the News of the World newspaper, his bid for British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc and today his British protégé Rebekah Brooks.
“He was humbled,” lawyer Mark Lewis told reporters after the meeting in London today. “I don’t think anybody could have held their head in their hands so many times to say that they were sorry.”
Murdoch, 80, has been in London since the weekend as the scandal escalated and politicians of all parties called on him and his son, James, to take responsibility for what happened. News Corp. will publish an apology in all national newspapers in Britain tomorrow, James Murdoch, the company’s deputy chief operating officer said in a letter to employees today.
Inside the meeting, Murdoch referred to his father, Sir Keith Murdoch, an Australian newspaperman, according to Lewis. “He said this was not the standard set by his father, who was a respected journalist, this was not the standard set by his mother.”
Murdoch’s mother, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, is now 102 years old.
“We told him that his papers should lead the way to set a standard of honesty and decency in the field and not what had gone on before,” Lewis said. “He was very humbled, very shaken, and very sincere. He apologized many times. Money was not discussed. There was no question of any discussion that would have tainted a meeting that was a heartfelt apology.”
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