2011 World News: "News of the World" Hacking Scandal

Updated June 8, 2022 | Infoplease Staff
2011 Year in Review

Phone-Hacking Scandal a Major Embarrassment for Media Mogul Murdoch

by Beth Rowen

News of the World

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A media scandal involving the News of the World, the British tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, riveted England during the summer of 2011 and had observers all over the world closely following the constantly evolving story. Murdoch shuttered the 168-year-old paper after several allegations surfaced that staffers hacked into voicemail accounts belonging to not only a 13-year-old murder victim, but also the relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, members of the Royal family, and other public figures. Prime Minister David Cameron ordered two separate investigations after Andy Coulson, Cameron's former communications director and a former editor of News of the World, was arrested under suspicion of corruption and conspiring to intercept communications.

Murdoch's News Corporation suffered financially as stock prices took a hit and he withdrew his $12 billion bid to buy British Sky Broadcasting. Nearly 20 people were arrested in the scandal, including Rebekah Brooks, former editor of the News of the World, on suspicion of illegally intercepting phone calls and bribing the police, and Neil Wallis, a former deputy editor at the tabloid, on suspicion of phone hacking and bribery of police officers. In addition, Paul Stephenson and John Yates, two Scotland Yard senior police officials, resigned amid allegations that police accepted bribes from News of the World employees.

In testimony before a parliamentary committee in July, Rupert Murdoch and his son James apologized for the wiretapping and hacking but denied they knew the unethical practices were taking place at the paper. "This is the most humble day of my life," the elder Murdoch said during the hearing. Another humbling moment occurred when a man threw a pie tin filled with shaving cream at Rupert Murdoch. His wife, Wendi, jumped from her seat and punched the man.

James Murdoch's credibility was questioned in December when an email string turned up in an internal investigation. Murdoch received and replied to the email conversation among News Corp. employees about a $1.4 million payment to Gordon Taylor, the head of the Professional Footballers' Association. Murdoch acknowledged that he received the email but said he didn't read the entire string and was not aware of the settlement.

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