Posted: 19 Jul 2011 04:00 PM PDT
I confess that for the most part I found the Murdoch testimony before Parliament today to be predictable, frustrating, and boring. So boring, in fact, that I dozed off just before the Great Murdoch Pie Face moment. However, there actually were some revelations. One of the more interesting one is the one John Dean discusses with Keith Olbermann in the video above.
In the course of testimony, it came out that Glenn Mulcaire's legal bills are being paid for by News Corp. Mulcaire is the "private investigator" who hacked into murder victim Milly Dowler.
Mr Murdoch said: "I asked the question myself and I was very surprised to find the company had made certain contributions to legal settlements.
"I don't have all of the details around each of those - not legal settlements sorry, legal fees - I was surprised, I was very surprised to find out that had occurred.
"They were done, as I understand it, in accordance with legal counsel and their strong advice."
Asked who signed the cheques, Rupert Murdoch said "it could have been" Les Hinton, head of News International at the time, or, alternatively, the chief legal officer.
It was put to the Murdochs that their company had been paying legal fees for Mulcaire, a "convicted felon" - a charge James Murdoch admitted.
He said: "I do know certain legal fees were paid for Mr Mulcaire by the company and I was as surprised and shocked to learn that as you are."
But he denied the fees were paid to buy Mulcaire's "cooperation and silence", saying: "When the allegations came out I said: 'Are we doing this? Is this what the company's doing?'
"The strong (legal) advice was that from time to time it's important and customary even to pay co-defendants' legal fees."
Other things I learned: James Murdoch is the one to watch out for. Rupert Murdoch is his old, crotchety, middle-finger-in-your-face-as-always guy, but James is one smooth operator. Always ready with a concerned look, contrite words, and a very long-winded answer, he restated what everyone else said, which was basically to say nothing.
This exchange is a perfect example. Yes, we paid his legal fees because someone else told us to, but also yes, we're all about being hands-on with the company and oh, by the way, did I forget to say I'm sorry?
Rebekah Brooks handled her testimony in a similar fashion, but was treated far more harshly by the panel questioning her. Not that she doesn't deserve harsh treatment. She does. But compared to the kid-glove treatment of the Murdoch duo, she was raked a bit harder.
Bottom line? Much like Congressional hearings here in the US, these were largely for show and not substance. The real hearings to watch will be the ones where criminal charges are brought, which I believe will happen at some point.
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