Rupert Murdoch has had a tough week.
A day after claiming “minor mistakes” had been made, he issued a nationwide apology in Great Britain for “serious wrongdoing.” His protege and close friend, Rebekah Brooks, has been forced to resign from News Corp. as has Les Hinton, publisher of the Wall Street Journal and former head of News Corp.’s British newspaper properties.
“Invited” to appear next week before Parliament, Murdoch and his son James initially declined. It was apparently explained that such an offer should not be refused, because later that day the pair announced they would appear after all. Murdoch has also withdrawn his bid to further expand his empire in Britain by trying to buy a major broadcasting outlet.
Here in the United States, where News Corp. is headquartered and where the Australian-born Murdoch is a citizen, pressure has grown for another set of investigations. Several members of Congress, including Republican Peter King of New York, have called for an investigation into reports that British-based News Corp. reporters tried to bribe U.S. police officers to assist in tapping the phone accounts of Sept. 11 victims.
Others are calling for a Justice Department investigation into whether the bribes apparently paid to Scotland Yard officials in Britain. (The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes it illegal for U.S. companies to use bribery in overseas business.)
Allegations of efforts to violate the privacy of Sept. 11 victims and their families should of course be run down and either proved or disproved, if possible. If such crimes occurred in this country, they should be prosecuted.
However, trying to prosecute News Corp. and its officials here for alleged crimes perpetrated in Britain by British citizens against other British citizens would smack of overreach and raise questions of political motivation. After years of trying to sweep the problem under the rug, British officials now seem intent on investigating News Corp. and its actions fully, and on exacting punishment.
Based on what we know so far, U.S. officials have no need to intervene.
– Jay Bookman