In a move of sheer arrogance, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch told the chairman of the U.K. parliamentary select committee that is slated next week to investigate the phone hacking scandal to “bug off.”
That snub pokes a finger in the eye of all Britain that is outraged over allegations that Murdoch’s News of the World hacked the phone of a 13-year-old murdered girl and family members of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. What was Rupe thinking? Or was he thinking?
In a three-paragraph letter sent earlier today to John Whittingdale, chair of House of Commons’ culture, media and sport select committee, 80-year-old Rupe thanked him for the invite, but: “Unfortunately, I am not available to attend the session you have planned next Tuesday.”
Geez, why not? It’s not that Rupe has a lunch date with the Queen? The royals were a favorite target of the now shuttered News of the World. What's more important than to testify before a governing body of a country in which your company is under a justified all-out assault?
Imperious Rupe informed Whittingdale that he plans to testify at the “judge-led” inquiry ordered by his former good friend, Prime Minister David Cameron, who is taking his own beating for hiring News of the World's former PR guy.
The final slight: Murdoch wrote that he is “happy to discuss with you how best to give evidence to your Committee.” The Royal Mail, perhaps? A secret document dump would be more in the gung-ho spirit of the News of the World.
In his initial refusal to appear before the panel, Rupe’s son James, at least had the courtesy to suggest a couple of other dates for the hearing and “if neither of these proves suitable I would be willing to consider any alternative dates you suggest.”
To his credit, Whittingdale stood tall. The Committee issued a summons to each Murdoch. Those notices apparently triggered a change of heart. James wrote to Whittingdale this afternoon to say both he and Dad have cleared their calendars for next week. It’s full speed ahead. Talk about eating crow.
Murdoch’s handling of the scandal has been a PR disaster. Things will improve now that Edelman is on the scene. The only question: will feisty Rupe take advice from the PR masters or will he decide to go down in flames?