Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has been recalled to the U.K. parliament to clarify evidence he gave about alleged crimes by his journalists following the emergence of a secret tape in which he appeared to belittle the police inquiry.
Murdoch, the head of News Corp., told lawmakers in July 2011 that he was “shocked, appalled and shamed” by the revelations of phone hacking and illegal payments to public officials that prompted him to close his prized News of the World tabloid two years ago. "This is the most humble day of my life,” he told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
But it emerged last week that during a private meeting with journalists on sister paper The Sun -- shortly before he gave evidence to parliament -- he was secretly recorded railing against the police inquiry.
"Why are the police behaving in this way?" Murdoch said in the recording, published by Exaronews.com. "It's the biggest inquiry ever, over next to nothing.”
The committee's chairman, John Whittingdale, told Reuters on Tuesday that they had asked Murdoch to come back for further questioning, adding that they had not yet set a date for the hearing.
"The committee has voted to ask him to reappear in light of the comments he made to News International staff," he said.
If Murdoch, 82, refused to appear, the committee could summon him to appear, which carries legal weight in the U.K.
In the tape, Murdoch did not admit knowing that any of his employees specifically paid public officials.
But he was recorded on two separate occasions describing the practice as part of the culture of Fleet Street.
"I don't know of anybody, or anything, that did anything that wasn't being done across Fleet Street and wasn't the culture," he said.
Later he added: "We're talking about payments for news tips from cops. That's been going on a hundred years, absolutely. You didn't instigate it.”
He also said the News Corp.'s British arm, recently renamed News U.K., had cooperated too closely with police when it decided to supply thousands of e-mails to them at the height of the scandal.
"I will do everything in my power to give you total support, even if you're convicted and get six months or whatever," he told the journalists.
Mark Watts, the editor-in-chief of Exaro News, said detectives on Operation Elvenden, an investigation into inappropriate payments to police officers had also made inquiries about the tapes.
But he told The Guardian newspaper that had not handed over any material and the force had not made clear "what they want, or why exactly they want it."