How Hugh Grant Helped Expose News Corp.'s Phone-Hacking Scandal
When James Murdoch announced on Thursday that Sunday's edition of the News of the World paper would be its last, it sent shockwaves throughout the U.K.
The announcement came amid a phone-hacking scandal that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is in the middle of. During a BBC News segment, Grant recalled a conversation that he had with Paul McMullan, at the time an employee at the News of the World.
"A guy got out of the car, started taking pictures of me," Grant said. "He was Paul McMullan, this ex-News of the World features editor. ... I finally got talking and he started boasting about how my phone had been hacked and all of the dirtiest tactics of the News of the World and about their relationship with the police and about their relationship with five sucessive prime ministers."
"I was revolted and astonished," the actor added.
But Grant wasn't done, visiting the pub that McMullan owned a few months later "and I bugged him," publishing his findings in the New Statesman. What exactly did McMullan admit to?
"High, extensive, industrial-scale phone-hacking went on at News of the World, particularly under Andy Coulson, how it wasn't just the News of the World, it was all the tabloids, how money regularly passed hands between News International and offices of Metropolitan Police," he said.
Grant continued: "How Margaret Thatcher was the first prime minister to realize it was very hard to get elected in this country without the backing of the Murdoch press."
The actor also asked McMullan during that meeting whether News of the World hacked into the phones of family and friends of the girls who were murdered at Soham, to which Grant said McMullan was almost certain had happened.
McMullan, who was present for the segment, agreed with Grant's recollection of events, but waxed poetic on how "hilarious" it was to have Grant taking on the role as a reporter and digging for information.
When Grant was asked whether he thought there was public interest in what has been written about him in the press and if this was a personal "crusade," Grant responded: "Well there's certainly interest. But it's back to that old cliche of what's interesting to the public and what's in the public interest, and I would argue, a lot of it, probably all of it is interesting to the public but not almost none of it is in the public interest."
But McMullan fired back, giving an example of someone who works a full day at a modest job may not sympathize fully with someone who earns millions on a film. "It's all part of the game," McMullan said, before Grant interjected and argued his stance.
"You're not journalists, you have no interest in journalism. It's just money, money, money," Grant said, before McMullan replied that News of the World was interested in "writing truthful stories."
"You should try real journalism because you're not an idiot ... you could probably do it," Grant said to McMullan.