What the Hack?

(Reuters) – Les Hinton was adamant. Asked in 2007 by a British parliamentary committee whether the News of the World had “carried out a full, rigorous internal inquiry” into the use of illegal phone hacking by the newspaper and was “absolutely convinced” it was limited to a single reporter, Hinton did not hesitate.

“Yes, we have,” the then-executive chairman of News of the World’s owner News International told the select committee, “and I believe he was the only person, but that investigation, under the new editor, continues.”

Four years on, Hinton may have serious reason to regret those words.

Original movie poster

In the middle of a voicemail hacking scandal that has killed the 168-year-old mass-circulation paper and threatens further damage to Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, much of the public anger so far has focused on Rebekah Brooks, editor of News of the World between 2000 and 2003 when some of the most high-profile hacking occurred, and her successor Andy Coulson, under whom it continued.

But attention is now turning to Hinton, 67, who headed up News International during Brooks’s and Coulson’s editorships and now runs the New York-based Dow Jones & Co., another arm of Murdoch’s sprawling News Corp. Murdoch’s long-time lieutenant, some News Corp watchers say, could end up being a high-profile casualty in the scandal.


Claire Enders, head of a research consultancy that advises many of Europe’s biggest media and communications companies, points out that Murdoch’s son and heir apparent James took on responsibility for News Corp’s British newspapers after Hinton left for New York in 2007. The younger Murdoch now has to deal with problems that occurred on his predecessor’s watch.

“For the last 6 months, I have heard that Mr Hinton has not been visiting the UK for precisely that reason, in order to avoid drawing any attention to himself,” Enders told Reuters.


Hinton has spent his entire career working for Murdoch, beginning as a reporter at the Adelaide News — legend has it that he used to collect Murdoch’s sandwiches — and rising through the ranks until he was tapped to run News International in 1995, and later Dow Jones after News Corp bought the publisher of the Wall Street Journal.


Hinton lives in an elegant townhouse — fitted out with a Jacuzzi and a deck — on Manhattan’s upper east side with his wife, Kath, a former aide to Gordon Brown.

He and Murdoch have spent more than 50 years working alongside each other, so it’s not surprising that insiders describe Hinton as one of the newspaper baron’s consiglieri, trusted to sort through sticky business issues or smooth political flaps.


After his assurances to the parliamentary committee in 2007, Hinton answered further questions in September 2009. Speaking over a video link from New York, the Murdoch lieutenant again sought to convince the members of parliament that all was now right at the British tabloid newspaper.

“There was never any evidence delivered to me that suggested that the conduct of (the single reporter) Clive Goodman spread beyond him … We went, I promise you, to extraordinary lengths within the News of the World,” he said.

Though there were times during the hearing when Hinton’s certainty appeared to be cracking — he used the phrases “I do not recall” or “I do not know” or variations on them at least 55 times — his faith in the newspaper’s internal checks seemed resolute.

Asked whether he should have pushed his editors on “the extent of the inquiry and more details about what had actually been looked into,” he replied that he “was happy when I gave evidence to you all two and a half years ago that the answers I gave were sincere and that the efforts made to discover any other wrongdoing had been conscientious and thorough, and I think people worked very hard in very difficult circumstances to both investigate what might have happened and to make sure that it did not happen again.”

Those answers could come back to haunt him.

James Murdoch conceded on Thursday that statements had been made to parliament before all the facts of the case were known.


At least one of the two inquiries announced by Prime Minister David Cameron is likely to call Hinton, who could face questions not just about phone hacking but also about a payment to Goodman, the News of the World’s former royal editor, after the journalist had been jailed.


Author [of a book about News of the World, Peter] Burden believes that Murdoch’s desire to protect his beloved Wall Street Journal will help dictate his next moves. “Rupert is very proud of the Wall Street Journal and that’s why he wouldn’t want to see it being damaged by Les Hinton being smeared,” Burden said.

That, said the former Dow Jones employee, might mean Hinton has to fall on his sword: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Hinton was the fall guy. He would take one for the team.”


Filed under Britain, Gordon Brown, humor, Media, movies, News Corp, parody, politics, Rupert Murdoch, Scandals, snark

29 responses to “What the Hack?

  1. johncerickson

    My, my, the tangled web of deceit stretches ever farther. You can bet your bottom dollar (pound?) that Murdoch will axe anybody (and maybe everybody) to save his precious WSJ. Heck, it’s about the only jewel in his crown that isn’t cut glass or badly tarnished (in more ways than one).
    I like the idea of sitting back with a bowl of popcorn and watching. The movie will have to be made in best Irwin Allen form. Quite the epic disaster! 😀

    • it really is tangled. my eyes bugged out when i saw that hinton’s wife used to work for gordon brown. is there a shortage of people to hire outside of some small bubble? it’s almost incestuous.

  2. If Murdoch wanted to protect the Wall Street Journal then why did he attach his gutter name to it?

  3. I was asking how long it would take for the rot to spread to the Wall Street Journal. I guess the answer is not long at all!

    • david cameron is in the middle of the scandal, and now gordon brown’s name is in the mix. wouldn’t it be awesome if all this shit somehow connects to chimpy and deadeye dick? it wouldn’t surprise me.

  4. My dream is all this bringing down the NewsCorp empire to the point that, much like the Monty Python sketch, that workmen start removing the set while a broadcast is in progress, hopefully during the morning episode of the Three Stooges (Doocey, Carlson, not-Doocey). Something that hasn’t been addresed yet in light of these payoffs with large amounts of “Rupies” is: Who has the most tax evasion?

    • 😆 i’d love to see that. i would even turn on faux news for the occasion. i want to see newscorp reduced to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub. 😉

    • johncerickson

      Hey, hey! Don’t you DARE sully the name of our beloved trio by comparing them to ANYBODY from Fox News. Unless, of course, you want to compare all three of the Fox Morning crew’s aggregate IQ to Curly’s IQ after he had his stroke – or better still, after he was dead and buried about 10 years.

  5. I read today that they even went after Gordon Brown. Hopefully this translate to jail time.

    • and hinton’s wife used to work for gordon brown. it’s like watching big brother. you have a seemingly limited pool of people who are stuck with each other, and they simultaneously smile in each other’s faces and stab each other in the back.

  6. You know damn well, that Murdoch will throw anyone and everyone connected to the scandal under the bus. He’ll do anything to save his ass.

    • it’s not a matter of what uncle rupie does or doesn’t do. it’s a matter of what everyone else involved will do. there’s just so much space under the bus, and there are a lot of people, many of them pissed off, who won’t fit under there, and they’ll flap their lips. why should they feel any loyalty to him when his only loyalty seems to be to rebekah brooks? she doesn’t seem to be well-liked. i think uncle rupie is backing the wrong horse, and that will be his biggest mistake. even if uncle rupie manages to pay off all the employees, those employees have spoken to other people about what went on at the paper, and those people will be happy to talk. even if it might be hearsay, it doesn’t matter. newspapers don’t have to live by the same rules that a court does.

  7. Nice headline in the newspaper box.

    That, said the former Dow Jones employee, might mean Hinton has to fall on his sword: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Hinton was the fall guy. He would take one for the team.”

    Being the fall guy must pay well then…

    • that’s the real last issue of news of the world, spinny.

      if hinton is the fall guy, he’ll have millions of bucks at his disposal for his defense. they’ll make sure to drag his case out for years and years and years. he’s 67 now, so if they can string this along for 10 years or so, his lawyers will say that he’s too old to go to jail. justice is different for rich people. even if he does go to jail, it will be to a club fed country club facility.

      • Ain’t that the truth. If you have enough money, you can pretty much buy your freedom. Or make the punishment not that bad.

        • with so many prisons being privatized, chances are that any rich people who go to jail will have bumped into the owners of the prisons at cocktail parties or at the country club. expect some luxury suites for certain prisoners and diamond-encrusted shivs.

  8. okjimm

    but but but… Rupert delivers only the truth? right?

  9. Its against my liberal frame of mind to watch Fox (Fraud-Faux-Propaganda) News. I read an article about it yesterday, that Fox mentioned it once, and more or less glossed over it.

    • from the la times:

      Meanwhile, the home page of the News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal featured one lead story about the ex-Cameron aide, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, and two less-prominent links, and the Journal put one story about the News of the World on the front page of its print edition. At the Murdoch-owned New York Post, there was no prominent coverage of the scandal on its home page Friday morning, nor on the front page of the newspaper; instead, print coverage was tucked away inside the paper’s business section.


      Fox News stayed mainly silent on the News of the World scandal during prime time Thursday, largely filling its roster of shows with discussions about topics such as the Casey Anthony sentencing and the federal budget. A Fox News spokeswoman did not elaborate on the network’s approach but pointed to coverage as a business story on several news programs.

    • “I mentioned the war once, but I think I got away with it” Basil Fawlty