LONDON — A protester rushed at Rupert Murdoch as he gave testimony to British lawmakers Tuesday, setting off a scuffle and spattering Murdoch with what appeared to be white foam in a foil pie dish in a shocking interruption of a hearing into the phone hacking scandal that’s rocked the media baron’s global empire.
After more than two hours of testimony, a man in a plaid shirt appeared to run toward Murdoch before being struck by his wife Wendi Deng.
Police in the back of the committee room were holding an apparently handcuffed man with white foam covering his face and shirt. The foam also appeared to have hit Murdoch’s suit.
Murdoch and his son James had sparred with the committee, the older man reeling from tough questioning before recovering his composure and rebuffing his interrogators with flashes of his legendary toughness.
Murdoch, 80, banged his hands on the table and said the day was the most humble of his life, becoming flustered when committee members peppered with him questions and turning to his son James for some answers.
He recovered later in a tense question-and-answer session with lawmakers, pushing back with firm denials of wrongdoing.
Murdoch said he was “shocked, appalled and ashamed” at the hacking of the phone of a murdered schoolgirl by his now-shuttered News of the World tabloid. He said he had seen no evidence that victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attack and their relatives were targeted by any of his papers, adding he didn’t believe the FBI had uncovered any evidence of that in a recently launched inquiry.
Murdoch said he was not responsible for the hacking scandal, and his company was not guilty of wilful blindness.
He repeatedly batted away questions about operations at the News of the World by saying he wasn’t really in touch with the tabloid or didn’t know what was going on there.
The value of the Murdochs’ News Corp. added around $1.5 billion while they were being grilled, trading 3.8 per cent higher at $15.54. The stock has taken a battering over the past couple of weeks, shedding around 17 per cent of its value, or around $8 billion.