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Rupert Murdoch ‘not fit’ to run News Corp., U.K. phone-hacking committee finds

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Rupert Murdoch testifies in London, April 25, 2012. (AP/Pool)

The parliamentary committee that's been investigating U.K. phone-hacking and media ethics released its much-anticipated report on Tuesday in London, concluding that Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. chairman and chief executive, is "not fit" to lead a major international media company.

Murdoch, the select committee found, "turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications."

The 125-page report also concluded that James Murdoch, Rupert's son and former head of News Corp.'s British publishing unit, News International, showed a "willful ignorance" of the phone-hacking activity that occurred on his watch.

The committee went on, charging that Les Hinton, former News International chairman, Colin Myler, ex-editor of News of the World, and former legal counsel Tom Crone were "complicit" in the phone-hacking cover-up. (According to the Guardian, all three may be called to apologize to Parliament, something that hasn't happened in 50 years.)

However, the committee that released the report was divided on its Murdoch findings, with conservatives members wanting to soften the language about the family. They were outvoted.

From the report:

On the basis of the facts and evidence before the committee, we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications. This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organization and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International. We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.

The MPs, however, were unified in their conclusions about Hinton, Myler and Crone.

In a statement, News Corp. said it is "carefully reviewing the select committee's report and will respond shortly. The company fully acknowledges significant wrongdoing at News of the World and apologizes to everyone whose privacy was invaded."

[ CLICK TO READ: The full select committee report ]

Last week, the 81-year-old Murdoch testified before a committee, the so-called Leveson Inquiry, admitting that there was indeed a phone-hacking "cover-up" at News International, led by "one or two very strong characters," and that he had "failed" to uncover it.

"Someone took charge of a cover-up, which we were victim to and I regret," Murdoch said on Thursday. "I also have to say that I failed ... and I am very sorry for it."

Murdoch, though, insisted the cover-up was not engineered by the company's top executives. "There was no attempt, by me or several levels below me, to cover it up," Murdoch said. "We set up inquiry after inquiry, we employed legal firm after legal firm. Perhaps we relied too much on the conclusions of the police."

The mogul said he panicked last summer when it was revealed that News of the World had hacked into the voice mail of Milly Dowler, a missing 13-year-old who was later found murdered. Murdoch shut the tabloid down a few days later.

On Wednesday, Murdoch was grilled for more than three hours about his frequent private meetings over the years with British politicians like David Cameron—just part of "the game," Murdoch said—and the editorial influence he wields over his newspapers.

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