News Corp. Phone Hacking Scandal Now Includes Murdered Child, Terrorist Victims and War Veterans

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Mr. Murdoch
Media baron Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and News International, which include our local Wall Street Journal and New York Post, plus England's News of the World, Times of London and The Sun tabloids, in addition to Fox, all of its arms and beyond, are feeling the increased sizzle of a scandal more than five years in the making involving the hacking of voicemails belonging to anyone who might make a juicy story, no matter how callous. The latest breaks in the case allege that Murdoch and co. could have been listening in -- and even tampering with -- phone messages for Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old who went missing in 2002, before her body was found, along with a victim of the 2005 terrorist attack on London's subway and even veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, "preying on ... families in the lowest depths of their misery," according to the national veterans' association. And then there's the police corruption -- it's a regular film noir!

Update! James Murdoch, Rupert's son and the chairman of News International, has announced that the 168-year-old News of the World will close after this Sunday's edition, with all revenue from the final issue going to charity. "So, just as I acknowledge we have made mistakes, I hope you and everyone inside and outside the Company will acknowledge that we are doing our utmost to fix them, atone for them, and make sure they never happen again," Murdoch wrote in his statement.

On Wednesday, Britain's parliament went off on Murdoch and his cronies, though Prime Minister David Cameron, "whose Conservative Party benefits from Mr. Murdoch's support, stopped short of calling for an immediate investigation into behavior by the Murdoch-owned News of the World and other tabloids," the New York Times reports.

The phone hacking was known to have previously occurred in the cases of royals and celebrities, with the actor Hugh Grant now calling for attention to "the whole culture of tabloid press" in his country. "It began with just a personal grievance because I was a victim of phone hacking and then I had this extraordinary piece of luck," he said, but then he ran into an old editor from the News of World. "He started boasting about hacking me, hacking everyone, all the dirty tricks of the News of the World, their sinister relationship with the Metropolitan Police, their relationship with the Prime Minister, and I thought it was all both fascinating and utterly repulsive."

One British lawmaker called Murdoch's actions "systemic abuse of almost unprecedented power." He continued, "Rupert Murdoch is clearly a very, very talented businessman -- he's possibly even a genius -- but his organization has grown too powerful and has abused that power. It has systematically corrupted the police and in my view has gelded this Parliament, to our shame."

The editor of News of the World at the time of the hacks and current News International head Rebekah Brooks called the allegations "almost too horrific to believe" in a staff memo and assured the "strongest possible action" if the Guardian's report about murder victim Milly Dowler, which set off this most recent outrage, proves to be true.

A statement from Murdoch promises his company will "fully and proactively cooperate with the police in all investigations," while former New York City schools chancellor, now an employee of News Corp., will "provide important oversight and guidance" for internal investigations.

[jcoscarelli@villagevoice.com / @joecoscarelli]

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