LONDON — Prime Minister David Cameron came under intense fire Wednesday for his ties to journalists tainted by an escalating phone-hacking scandal, even as he proposed an independent inquiry that could redefine the rules between the press and politicians in Britain.
The scandal, in which celebrities, members of the royal family and ordinary British citizens allegedly had their phones illegally hacked by journalists working for Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid, has severely damaged the operations of the paper's parent company, News Corp. On Wednesday, the company was forced to withdraw its $12 billion bid to take full control of British Sky Broadcasting Corp.
Meanwhile, a half-dozen members of Congress are urging the U.S. government to investigate possible misconduct, including violations of a law that guards against foreign corruption.
In a letter Wednesday, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., pressed the FBI to investigate whether journalists working for News Corp. newspapers tried to obtain phone records of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as one British newspaper claimed, citing anonymous sources.
King was the first Republican to call for an investigation into the company's activities. News Corp.'s chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, is a longtime supporter of conservative causes and Republican politicians.
Several of the other lawmakers who spoke out this week have been publicly critical of News Corp. in the past. The first to issue a statement, Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said Tuesday that the U.S. government should hold investigations to "ensure that Americans have not had their privacy violated." He was joined Wednesday by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who asked the Justice Department to investigate the claims involving 9/11 victims.
The affair has sullied Cameron, whose personal ties to News Corp. executives dogged him in Parliament on Wednesday, presenting his Conservative-led coalition government with its most severe test since it came to power 14 months ago.
The scandal puts Cameron, 44, suddenly on the defensive. He confronted a chorus of boos Wednesday from the opposition Labor Party.