Rupert Murdoch Tells WSJ Sales Reports ‘Pure Rubbish'; Defends James

Less than a week before he testifies before a committee of Parliament, Rupert Murdoch tested his speaking skills on the growing scandal affecting News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). in an interview with his own Wall Street Journal — choosing to respond to queries about the status of son James himself rather than through PR, indirection or silence. Among his comments, Murdoch repudiated reports, including one by the Journal, that the company’s remaining papers might be sold, calling it “pure rubbish. Pure and total rubbish….give it the strongest possible denial you can give.”

Some other items of note from the story now up at WSJ.com:

On James Murdoch: “I think he acted as fast as he could, the moment he could.” The senior Murdoch said his son’s status was unchanged. James Murdoch is deputy COO of News Corp. and chairman of News International, the UK publishing unit where the scandal is centered.

On parliament: He said he changed his mind about accepting the invitation to appear before the committee to address “some of the things that have been said in Parliament, some of which are total lies. We think it’s important to absolutely establish our integrity in the eyes of the public……I felt that it’s best just to be as transparent as possible.”

On blame: Murdoch said News Corp.made “minor mistakes” but as expected found someone else to blame, claiming London law firm Hartbottle & Lewis LLP made a “major mistake” in the initial investigation of phone hacking at News of the World. The firm’s managing partner told the Journal it couldn’t comment”as the matters raised are the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Metropolitan Police” — and that it didn’t comment on clients past or present. No mention of Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News Int. and the editor of NotW when the hacking in question took place.

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