With the news today that a former News of the World reporter -- who was jailed and fired over phone hacking -- wrote a letter several years ago to top News Corp. executives claiming phone hacking was “widely discussed” at the paper, the coverage of the scandal by Rupert Murdoch's U.S. media properties over the past several weeks seems increasingly embarrassing.
But now comes further evidence that News Corp. may have intentionally covered-up rampant phone-hacking at News of the World for years. The Guardian reports:
Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and their former editor Andy Coulson all face embarrassing new allegations of dishonesty and cover-up after the publication of an explosive letter written by the News of the World's disgraced royal correspondent, Clive Goodman.
In the letter, which was written four years ago but published only on Tuesday, Goodman claims that phone hacking was “widely discussed” at editorial meetings at the paper until Coulson himself banned further references to it; that Coulson offered to let him keep his job if he agreed not to implicate the paper in hacking when he came to court; and that his own hacking was carried out with “the full knowledge and support” of other senior journalists, whom he named.
Goodman's claims also raise serious questions about Rupert Murdoch's close friend and adviser, Les Hinton, who was sent a copy of the letter but failed to pass it to police and who then led a cast of senior Murdoch personnel in telling parliament that they believed Coulson knew nothing about the interception of the voicemail of public figures and that Goodman was the only journalist involved.
Member of Parliament Tom Watson called Goodman's letter “absolutely devastating” and said it “is the most significant piece of evidence that has been revealed so far. It completely removes News International's defence. This is one of the largest cover-ups I have seen in my lifetime.”
Moreover, the Guardian reports that News Corp. “faces a new claim that it misled parliament” because the newly-released papers suggest, in Watson's words, that the company “tried to buy [Goodman's] silence.”
These are serious allegations, and unsurprisingly, Watson has called for Rupert and James Murdoch to reappear before parliament to explain the new evidence.
But will the allegations be treated as serious by Murdoch's U.S. media outlets? Or will they continue to spin the scandal -- as they have in the past -- as “an all-out attack by the mainstream media against News Corp. and the Murdochs' family.”