LONDON — By turns contrite and defiant, media magnate Rupert Murdoch apologized Thursday for the phone-hacking scandal that has tarnished his company but then blamed subordinates for covering up the problem and police for failing to investigate it properly.
"The buck stops with me," Murdoch said. "I failed. And I'm very sorry about that. . . . It's going to be a blot on my reputation for the rest of my life."
Had he known the extent of hacking by the News of the World tabloid, he would have "torn the place apart, and we wouldn't be here today," Murdoch testified before a British judicial inquiry of media ethics, which was spawned by the hacking scandal.
Yet he acknowledged that, as chairman of media giant News Corp., he hadn't bothered to delve into the issue when evidence of wrongdoing began emerging in 2006. Then, when the scandal erupted last summer with revelations that the cellphone of a kidnapped girl was among those hacked, he shut down the 168-year-old News of the World.
Three criminal investigations have been launched; Scotland Yard says hundreds of people may have been the victims of illegal snooping by the News of the World. Dozens of journalists from the defunct paper and its sister tabloid the Sun have been arrested, but none charged.
Murdoch said he has spent "hundreds of millions of dollars" on the legal fallout and on cleaning up his newspapers to ensure such lapses don't happen again.