Rupert Murdoch Breaks Silence, Defends Son James and News Corp. Crisis Management

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Rupert Murdoch

The mogul shoots down suggestions that the conglomerate may sell or spin off its newspaper business and said the damage that his company's reputation has taken amid the phone hacking scandal is "nothing that will not be recovered."

NEW YORK - News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch on Thursday defended his son James, deputy COO of the company, argued that his conglomerate has handled the recent phone hacking crisis "extremely well in every way possible" with only "minor mistakes" and suggested that the damage the company has taken from the woes is "nothing that will not be recovered."

In his first interview since the recent crisis at the company, he told the Wall Street Journal, which is owned by News Corp., that the conglomerate would establish an independent committee to "investigate every charge of improper conduct."

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Expected to be run by a "distinguished non-employee," it will also put together a "protocol for behavior" for new reporters at the company, the Journal quoted him as saying.

Asked about the public outcry over the scandal, Murdoch said: "We have a reputation of great good works in this country." Asked if he was aggravated by a wave of negative headlines over the past week and a half, the mogul said he was "just getting annoyed." He added though: "I'll get over it. I'm tired."

Asked if his son James may step down as non-executive chairman of BSkyB, Murdoch said his positions at News Corp. are unchanged, rejecting criticism.

"I think he acted as fast as he could, the moment he could," Murdoch said when confronted with criticism that his son had acted too slowly in the affair. About his own reaction, he said: "When I hear something going wrong, I insist on it being put right."

Asked about the potential spin-off or sale of News Corp.'s newspaper business, at least in the U.K., which some have suggested, Murdoch said any such reports are "pure and total rubbish." The Journal also quoted him as adding: "Give it the strongest possible denial you can give."

Why did he agree to appear in front of a U.K. parliamentary committee next week after initially declining? Murdoch said he wants to address "some of the things that have been said in Parliament, some of which are total lies." He added: "We think it's important to absolutely establish our integrity in the eyes of the public."

The media mogul said former British Prime Minster Gordon Brown, who has suggested that his phone and other information had been obtained illicitly by News Corp. reporters, "got it entirely wrong." He added: "The Browns were always friends of ours" until his Sun tabloid withdrew its support for the Labour Party before the last election.