As Met’s ‘Operation Elveden’ investigates media mogul, he confides in The Sun’s editor
The tycoon told pals that he was shocked by the devastating disclosure to Exaro of his explosive remarks made at a confidential meeting with journalists at his top-selling tabloid, The Sun.
The leak a fortnight ago plunged his business empire deeper into crisis over illegal news-gathering practices at his tabloid newspapers in the UK.
Murdoch, 82, has since confided in David Dinsmore, editor of The Sun. Dinsmore told colleagues how, in a telephone call from America, Murdoch said bitterly to him: “I feel hurt by what has happened.”
News of Murdoch’s reaction comes as Scotland Yard begins its investigation into his personal knowledge about the practice of his journalists to pay police officers and other public officials for information for stories.
The Metropolitan Police Service opened a fresh line of enquiry in ‘Operation Elveden’ after Exaro revealed how Murdoch implicitly – but clearly – admits on the secret recordings to knowing for decades that his journalists were bribing public officials. Exaro has passed three audio files of the recordings to the police. All three audio files had already been uploaded onto our website.
One senior source on Operation Elveden told Exaro that the Met’s investigation into Murdoch was a “delicate issue”.
It is understood that detectives are not intending to interview Murdoch immediately. Officers are first planning to listen closely to the recordings to “assess” their relevance to Operation Elveden.
News UK denied in a statement that Murdoch knew about payments by his journalists to police before the company disclosed the practice to the authorities.
In March, Murdoch agreed to a meeting with nearly two dozen of The Sun’s executives and reporters who had been arrested over allegations of paying public officials for information for stories.
The 45-minute session was held at the newspaper’s headquarters in London. Murdoch sat at the head of a large board table, flanked by Dominic Mohan, then The Sun’s editor, and Mike Darcey, chief executive of News International, the subsidiary of News Corporation that has since been rebranded as News UK.
Several journalists there switched on digital recorders in advance of the meeting with the intention of capturing the boss’s comments.
Exaro teamed up with Channel 4 News to expose the story a fortnight ago. It hit the headlines across the world as Exaro published a full transcript of the meeting between Murdoch and Sun staff.
In a private conversation following our revelations, Murdoch talked to Dinsmore about the leak, asking who had provided Exaro with the recordings.
Dinsmore told Murdoch that he did not know, although he had his suspicions.
The media mogul told his editor that he was very upset that journalists on The Sun had turned on him. Murdoch also told Dinsmore that he felt “betrayed” by staff on his red-top tabloid.
The comment is ironic because journalists on The Sun feel exactly the same way about him after News International handed over to police information that helped identify their confidential sources.
Exaro’s third audio file captures the final five minutes of the March meeting, which ended in high emotion as The Sun’s agony aunt, Deidre Sanders, read out to Murdoch an emotional letter from the wife of one of the newspaper’s executives, saying that staff felt “betrayed”.
Some journalists on The Sun are nervous about how Murdoch might wreak his revenge. However, most are pleased that, as they see it, his personal role is under scrutiny for the first time as a result of Exaro’s revelations.
Meanwhile, the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee announced last Tuesday that it was recalling Murdoch to answer questions about his private comments.
MPs on the committee want to quiz him about the apparent contradictions between those comments and his previous testimony to them.
A spokesman for News Corporation said in response: “Mr Murdoch welcomes the opportunity to return to the select committee, and answer their questions. He looks forward to clearing up any misconceptions as soon as possible.”
Update 18 July 2013: Rupert Murdoch has written to two senior MPs to express regret over the way in which he condemned the police in secretly recorded comments.
In recordings exposed by Exaro earlier this month, he described the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) as “totally incompetent”.
Murdoch has written in response to letters from John Whittingdale and Keith Vaz, chairmen of the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee and the home affairs committee respectively.
In his letter to Whittingdale, a Conservative MP, Murdoch writes: “I am sure I made overly emotional comments about the MPS at the March meeting.”
“I do not doubt the police’s professionalism, but from my layman’s perspective, the police approach to these matters… has in some respects appeared to be disproportionate.
“I should not have spoken disrespectfully of the police. We all owe a great debt to the MPS for their work each day to protect the public.
“Still, I share my employees’ deep frustration with the length of this process.”
He goes on to deny that he was aware of bribery by his newspaper journalists of police, writing. “The ‘reports’ that I knew about, let alone tolerated, payments to police are completely false.
“When I first heard there was evidence of inappropriate payments in the spring of 2011, I agreed with the decision to seek counsel and then report this information to the MPS, which led to Operation Elveden.”
He also says that News UK has gone to great lengths to co-operate with police. He writes: “In July 2011, I committed to ‘clean up’ the problems at News International (now News UK). I have kept that promise, and then some.”
“While we have in recent months asked the MPS or the Crown Prosecution Service to reconsider requests for assistance that seemed unreasonable or unfair under the circumstances, and we have this week for the first time sought guidance from the court on a legal issue, we have more than met our commitments.
“We assembled 23 million documents for review out of archives, and produced over a half million documents to the MPS.”
In a separate letter to Vaz, a Labour MP, Murdoch writes: “I did not intend to suggest that any violations of the law are tolerable or acceptable.
“After we volunteered this material to the MPS, no one who works for us could believe that we tolerate or accept violations of the law.
“I accept that I used the wrong adjectives to voice my frustration over the course of the police investigation. But I had been hearing for months about pre-dawn raids undertaken by as many as 14 police officers, and that some employees and their families were left in limbo for as much as a year-and-a-half between arrest and charging decisions.”
“I have no basis to question the competence of the police, and I and our newspapers respect the work that they do every day to protect the public.
“But I do question whether, over the last two years, the police have approached these matters with an appropriate sense of proportion, and with regard for the human cost of delay.
“While I regret my choice of words in that highly emotional meeting, I care deeply about our employees, and I was and am troubled by the effect of these events on them.”
“I am in no position to judge the competence of the investigation, and should never have done so. My own lay view is that it has been more than thorough. Indeed, it has in some respects been excessive.
“I cannot endorse the judgement that the investigation has ‘progressed’ very well, not when some of our employees were arrested early in the investigation in 2012, and they and their families are still in limbo, awaiting charging decisions.
“I appreciate that the decision to arrest is entirely a matter for the police, that the decision to charge is for the Crown.”
He adds: “That said, my personal view is that this has gone on too long.”