It just keeps getting dirtier and dirtier—and that was before this morning’s report that Sean Hoare was found dead in his home. Hoare, a former show business reporter at the News of the World, was the first on-the-record source to allege that British Prime Minister David Cameron’s director of communications, Andy Coulson, actively encouraged reporters to hack into the voicemail accounts of celebrities when he was that paper’s editor. According to a statement by Hertfordshire police: “The death is currently being treated as unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious.” Phew!
Tomorrow (Tuesday, July 19) the billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch and his son and designated successor James will testify before the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. Rebekah Brooks, the former head of News International, Murdoch’s British subsidiary, was also supposed to testify but now may not since she was arrested over the weekend.
Also over the weekend Sir Paul Stephenson, the head of the Metropolitan Police, resigned after it emerged that he had hired Neil “Wolfman” Wallis, a former deputy editor at Murdoch’s now defunct Sunday tabloid the News of the World, as a publicity consultant to the police force. Wallis, who was himself arrested last week, also did public relations work for a health spa favored by Brooks, and which comped the £12,000 cost of the chief’s five-week stay while recovering from surgery this past January. This morning also brought the news that Stephenson’s number two, John Yates, also resigned after Parliament’s Home Affairs committee said it was going to summon him back to explain why, despite being closely questioned by the committee about his relationship with Wallis in March, he never mentioned the consultant deal—which he had signed off on. It was Yates who decided not to reopen the police investigation into phone hacking in July 2009 after the Guardian broke the news that Murdoch had paid out over £1 million to settle three lawsuits that could have revealed the “use of criminal methods to get stories.”
At the time Rupert Murdoch denied any such payments had been made. “If that had happened, I would know about it,” he told a reporter for Bloomberg. We now know that James had personally approved the payments. So one question for James tomorrow ought to be, “When did you tell your father about the settlements?” And one question for Rupert should be, “Were you telling the truth when you said News International had made no payments to settle cases relating to phone hacking, or were you telling the truth when you said if such payments had been made you would have been informed?”