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Audio: Rupert Murdoch was aware of payments to officials

Media mogul’s admission was secretly recorded at meeting with staff from The Sun

It’s a very, very moving letter

Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Sun

Exaro today releases an audio of astonishing comments by media mogul Rupert Murdoch in a meeting with staff from The Sun that was secretly recorded.

He indicated in the private meeting that he knew for decades that his newspaper journalists were bribing public officials.

The meeting lasted around 45 minutes. Murdoch met nearly two dozen executives and reporters from The Sun who had been arrested by detectives over allegations of illegal news-gathering practices, including the paying of police officers and other public officials for information.

He said that the company had made a “mistake” by setting up the management and standards committee (MSC) to hand over to the police information that identified confidential sources.

Murdoch also:

  • told the arrested journalists, “just trust me,” when they asked whether they would be given their jobs back;
  • railed against “incompetent” police, and complained about judges;
  • said that the MSC had not supplied the police with any documents “for months” for their investigations.

The journalists were accompanied by Deidre Sanders, The Sun’s agony aunt, who read out a letter to Murdoch from the wife of one of the newspaper’s executives.

After Sanders finishes, Murdoch says: “Thank you very much. That’s very moving… I’ll go and shove it down the throat of the company lawyers. That was the most ups-”

He is interrupted by the sobbing of the executive concerned.

“It’s a very, very moving letter,” says Murdoch.

A spokeswoman for News UK told Exaro in a statement earlier in the week: “It is simply false that Mr Murdoch knew that payments were made to police before News Corporation disclosed that to UK authorities. The MSC continues to co-operate with those authorities, under the supervision of the court.”

Exaro yesterday published a full transcript of the extraordinary exchanges between Murdoch and his staff, redacting a few passages for legal reasons.

The meeting took place in March at News UK’s headquarters in London.

By clicking on Exaro ‘headphones’ image above, you can listen to an audio file that collates the key comments made by Murdoch at the meeting. It lasts more than 13 minutes.

Update 5.30pm 4 July 2013: Tom Watson, Labour MP, is urging senators in America to investigate the disclosures from the transcript of the secretly-recorded meeting that was published last night by Exaro.

He today wrote to Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the US Senate committee on commerce, science and transportation, because of its “interest in the conduct of News Corporation”.

He writes: “The transcript reveals Mr Murdoch’s approach to the alleged criminality within his organisation. It also reveals how his employees claim that they were simply doing what was expected of them, and that they had continued a practice of paying public officials that had been going on for decades.

“Mr Murdoch’s replies, in my view, demonstrate a significant level of knowledge of the practice, and a shocking contempt for the police investigation into it. Perhaps, even more sinister is his confirmation that his organisation will ‘hit back’ at the police because of their investigation.”

“No doubt you will read the entire transcript, and come to your own conclusions.”

He continued: “It has been my view from the outset that the most senior executives within News Corporation should be held responsible and called to account for the wrongdoing of the UK journalists and other employees of its subsidiaries.

“It is Rupert Murdoch who is most responsible for the culture in his organisation. We now know more of his attitude towards, and knowledge of, the culture of corruption in his UK newspapers (and, he alleges, across his competitors) and his condemnation of the police’s attempts to root it out.

“Having had this revealed, I would encourage the authorities, both in the UK and US, to ensure that their investigations into News Corporation are not inhibited in going to the very top, notwithstanding the power and influence wielded by Mr Murdoch.”

Watson also copied the letter to another senior senator, Patrick Leahy, chairman of the US Senate committee on the judiciary.

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