(Updates with lawmaker and witness comments in fourth and fifth paragraphs.)
July 19 (Bloomberg) -- News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch was attacked with a foam-like substance as he testified before lawmakers about the phone-hacking scandal in the U.K.
A man in a checked shirt walked from the public seating area and pushed a plate of the substance into Murdoch’s face. Murdoch’s wife Wendi stood up from behind her husband and swung at the man, who was then marched out of the room by police officers.
The attacker refused to give his name when asked by reporters. The U.K. Parliament committee hearing into the scandal at News Corp.’s News of the World newspaper, which was entering its final minutes with questions from panelist Louise Mensch, was suspended after the incident and resumed a short while later with Murdoch jacket-less and the public gallery cleared.
“I would like to apologize for the wholly unacceptable treatment you received from a member of the public,” John Whittingdale, chairman of the House of Commons’s Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, told Murdoch, 80, at the end of the hearing. Tom Watson, a member of the panel who has spearheaded the campaign against Murdoch, said “Mr. Murdoch, your wife has a very good left hook.”
Body Scanner, X-Ray
A witness, 17-year-old school pupil Luca Morreale, said he lined up next to the man this morning before they passed through security including a body scanner and x-ray for bags. He had identified himself as a blogger as they waited, Morreale said.
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has asked for the incident to be investigated, a spokeswoman said in an e-mail.
The hearing, which Murdoch initially refused to appear before until being summoned, had already been disturbed when members of the public were escorted out after standing and silently holding blue signs that read “The People Versus Murdoch” and “Murdoch Wanted For News Crimes.” Outside the building, protesters shouted anti-Murdoch chants and brandished signs that read “Smash Murdoch’s Evil Empire.”
Murdoch’s appearance before a U.K. parliamentary hearing is a sign of how much the phone-hacking allegations have damaged the New York-based company’s U.K. operations. In two weeks, the company has closed a profitable newspaper, pulled out of a bid to buy the rest of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc and lost two senior executives.
The newspaper proprietor told the committee that he wasn’t responsible for the scandal, saying that the blame lies with the “people that I trusted to run” his operations and that he wouldn’t resign.
“I’m the best person to clear this up,” he said.
It’s not the first security breach at the U.K. parliament. In September 2004, five protesters entered the main chamber of the House of Commons as legislators held a debate on whether to ban fox hunting with hounds. That came four months after men seated in the visitors’ gallery at the House of Commons threw purple-colored flour-bombs at then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, hitting him on the back.
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--With assistance by Gonzalo Vina in London. Editors: Simon Thiel, Robert Valpuesta.
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