The testimony of Rupert and James Murdoch before the UK Parliament about the ongoing phone hacking scandal was temporarily suspended following an attack on the elder Murdoch.
Various photos and videos capturing the moment are now circulating, showing what appears to be a pie tin full of foam being pushed towards Murdoch’s face.
As you can see in the video, Murdoch’s wife quickly rose to protect her husband, though CNN reports he was “hit squarely in the face” by the foam pie.
Mr Murdoch’s wife, Wendi Deng, who was sitting behind her husband, leapt to his defence as the man, wearing a checked shirt, tried to hit the media mogul with what witnesses drescribe as a plate of shaving foam or cream.
His son, James, who was sitting next to him during the Culture Committee evidence, also jumped up to defend his 80 year-old father.
The protest was seen live on television and the internet. The man was heard shouting: “I got him.” Mr Murdoch was left with foam on his clothing. Video of the incident was quickly posted on YouTube.
When the hearing resumed Mr Murdoch was in shirt sleeves because his suit jacket was soiled in the attack. Labour MP Tom Harris told the proprietor: “Mr Murdoch your wife has a very good left hook.”
Earlier, Mr Murdoch accused his commercial rivals in Britain of whipping up hysteria over wrong-doing at one of his British newspapers for their own commercial reasons during an appearance last night at the most-watched committee hearing in British parliamentary history.
“They caught us with dirty hands and they built the hysteria up,” said the News Corporation chairman and chief executive. Mr Murdoch apologised profusely for the wrongdoing, while denying that he or any senior managers, including his son James Murdoch, knew about criminal behaviour in the phone hacking affair that has shaken Britain’s government and police establishment and shaved $1 billion off the value of his holdings in News Corporation.
“This is the most humble day of my life,” the 80-year-old media proprietor said, before promising to lift the ethical performance of his British newspapers.
“I was absolutely shocked, appalled and ashamed when I heard about the Milly Dowler case only two weeks ago,” he said, referring to the disclosure that the News of the World had hacked into voice mails of a murdered schoolgirl.
Mr Murdoch’s first appearance before British MPs in 42 years as a British newspaper proprietor was broadcast live to an audience of millions in Britain, Australia and the US from a crowded room in Portcullis House, a modern annexe to the famous Westminster parliament building.
Crowds queued for up to eight hours for seats and journalists from around the world watched the hearing, lasting around three hours, of the House of Commons select committee on the media from a spill-over room.
When Mr Murdoch was asked who he blamed for the affair leading to the closure of the News of the World and the withdrawal of a bid to take full control of British broadcaster BSkyB, he pointed to commercial rivals. “A lot of people had different agendas, I think, in trying to build this hysteria,” he said.
“All of our competitors in this country formally announced a consortium to try and stop us. They caught us with dirty hands and they built the hysteria up. I think a mood developed which made it impractical to go ahead.”
The committee chairman, John Whittingdale, a former political secretary to Margaret Thatcher, demanded an explanation for why News executives had wrongly assured the committee in 2007 that any wrongdoing was the work of “one rogue reporter”, jailed journalist Clive Goodman. James Murdoch said that was the information that the executives had had at that time.
Mr Murdoch said he only learned about emails proving the News of the World’s wrongdoing in April or May this year when civil legal action exposed those emails.
His father said a company lawyer, Jon Chapman, had had prior access to the emails and had now left the firm. Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks had taken the decision that another lawyer Tom Crone should also leave the firm, he added.
Asked about his contact with his newspapers, Rupert Murdoch said he was in most contact with the editor of the Wall Street Journal, Robert Thomson, who worked in the same building in New York but he was “not really in touch” with the News of the World.
“The News of the World perhaps I lost sight of, maybe because it was so small in the general frame of our company but we are doing a lot of other things,” Mr Murdoch said. “I ring the editor of The Sunday Times nearly every Saturday”, he said. But his contact with the News of the World editor was “at least once a month I guess”.
“I would say ‘what’s doing?’ He might say, ‘we have got a great story exposing X or Y’,” Mr Murdoch said. When Conservative MP Philip Davies suggested that the News of the World was closed to save the job of Ms Brooks, Mr Murdoch said: “the two decisions were absolutely and totally unrelated.”