A secret recording of Rupert Murdoch candidly addressing staff at his UK tabloid The Sun has put the News Corp boss in an uncomfortable spot.
The recording suggests Murdoch now regrets helping the police investigate wrongdoing and corruption at his UK newspapers.
In it, he criticises the police for "picking on" his newspapers and claims that paying police officers for tips was part of the culture.
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"I don't know of anybody that did anything that wasn't being done across Fleet Street and wasn't the culture. We're being picked on, I think... We're talking about payments for news tips from cops. That's been going on for a hundred years, absolutely... It was the culture of Fleet Street."
The recording was obtained by investigative website ExaroNews (transcript behind a paywall) and aired by the UK's Channel 4 news yesterday, although UK weekly Private Eye put up a taster of the recording last month.
The recording was made when Murdoch met with Sun journalists in March. Many of them had been arrested over allegations of paying public officials and felt that News Corp had treated them like "scapegoats".
In the immediate aftermath of the phone hacking scandal that shut the News of the World, The Sun's sister paper, Murdoch set up a management and standards committee (MSC) to help weed out any evidence of suspected wrongdoing by News staff. The MSC handed over reams of email evidence over to the police, which resulted in the arrests of Sun journalists.
Murdoch said in the recording that the way Sun staffers were being treated by police was "just outrageous" and claims that the arrests were made over "next to nothing".
"I will do everything in my power to give you total support, even if you're convicted and get six months or whatever. I think it's just outrageous, but - and I don't know of anybody, or anything, that did anything that wasn't being done across Fleet Street and wasn't the culture. And we're being picked on. I think that it was the old right-wing establishment ... or worse, the left-wing get-even crowd of Gordon Brown. There was a sort of, we got caught with dirty hands, I guess, with the News of the World, and everybody piled in. It was a get-even time for things that were done with The Sun over the last 40 years, 38 years, whatever it is."
On the MSC, he said: "I'm sure we've made mistakes ... We were working under the belief that the police were about to invade the building and take all the computers out and just put us out of business totally ... If you want to accuse me of a certain amount of panic, there's some truth in that. We might have gone too far in protecting ourselves, and you were the victims."
On paying cops or public officials for tips, which is an offence, he said: "We're talking about payments for news tips from cops: that's been going on a hundred years, absolutely. You didn't instigate it."
Labour MP Tom Watson has called on the police to question Murdoch over the claims in the recording.
What's amusing about the affair, which comes as Murdoch tries to put the phone hacking scandal behind him with the launch of his new publishing arm, is that the recording must have come from someone at the meeting.
Private Eye made the connection, saying Murdoch made his address while "several tape recorders secreted around the room ran". It seems not even his own staff trusts him.
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