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Two Murdoch aides quit in scandal of phone hacks

LONDON — The News Corp. phone-hacking scandal on Friday claimed two high-ranking executives running the company's U.S. and British operations as chief executive Rupert Murdoch tried to stem the fallout from a growing crisis he had been downplaying.

Leslie Hinton, head of Dow Jones & Co., the division of News Corp. that owns the Wall Street Journal, resigned late in the day, providing a bookend to the morning resignation of Rebekah Brooks, who headed News International, the company's British newspaper unit.

Hinton, 67, was in charge of News International and Brooks, 43, was editor of its News of the World when the phones of hundreds of British celebrities, politicians and ordinary citizens were allegedly hacked. Murdoch closed the tabloid last week.

Murdoch himself apologized Friday to the family of a 13-year-old homicide victim whose phone allegedly had been hacked by News of the World operatives in 2002 while the girl was still missing. A full-page apology he signed was scheduled to appear today in all British national newspapers under a banner headline saying, "We are sorry."

Members of Parliament had been demanding Brooks' ouster, but it was Hinton's exit that was most dramatic, given his 52-year association with Murdoch.

"That this passage has come to an unexpected end, professionally, not personally, is a matter of much sadness to me," Murdoch said in a statement.

The flight of top executives underscores the severity of the crisis that has his News Corp. on the ropes. The company has been battered for nearly two weeks by rival news organizations and government officials on both sides of the Atlantic. On Thursday, it was disclosed that the FBI had launched an inquiry to determine whether Murdoch's minions hacked into the phones of victims and families of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Industry experts believe Friday's developments are designed to protect Murdoch and his son and heir apparent, James, from further scrutiny by isolating the problem to Brooks and Hinton.

In a statement, Hinton appeared to provide a defense for the Murdochs. "There had never been any evidence delivered to me that suggested the conduct had spread beyond one journalist," he said, reiterating what he had testified in Parliament four years ago, when the hacking first surfaced.

The Murdochs had sought to downplay the scandal. On Thursday, the Journal quoted Rupert Murdoch as saying the company had handled the crisis "extremely well in every way possible."

Information from the Washington Post was used in this report.

Two Murdoch aides quit in scandal of phone hacks 07/15/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 15, 2011 10:59pm]
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