News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch will accept an invitation to appear before a committee of the British Parliament to discuss taped comments he made about a police investigation into journalists' phone hacking and alleged illicit payments to British authorities.
Murdoch's comments, secretly recorded during his visit to the News Corp.-owned Sun tabloid in March, have exploded into a controversy over whether the press baron was condoning the payments to officials by suggesting such behavior was part of the "culture of Fleet Street."
News Corp. said Tuesday that Murdoch would appear before the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport.
“Mr. Murdoch welcomes the opportunity to return to the Select Committee and answer their questions. He looks forward to clearing up any misconceptions as soon as possible," News Corp. said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
Earlier Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the House of Commons committee said that Murdoch would be invited to appear to explain his comments.
A tape of the March meeting was obtained by an investigative website in the U.K. On it, Murdoch was heard to disparage police officers probing the ethics scandal that has roiled News Corp.'s operations in the U.K. for the last two years.
"The cops are totally incompetent," Murdoch said.
In an ironic twist, one of the journalists who attended the small gathering had secretly recorded the 82-year-old press baron, who was attempting to show his support for his scandal-tainted team of journalists.
Scotland Yard also is reportedly interested in obtaining a copy of that recording.
Two years ago, Murdoch and his son James Murdoch appeared before the same committee of Parliament. At the time, the two Murdochs said they were unaware of the phone hacking at the company's U.K. tabloids. Murdoch called his appearance before Parliament "the most humble day of my life."
"He is going to be invited, most likely later today, to come back before the committee to give evidence," Jessica Bridges-Palmer, a spokeswoman for the Select Committee, said earlier Tuesday. "He will be asked to discuss his comments."
Parliament is preparing to go on a six-week recess, so it is unclear when a Murdoch appearance would occur.
Last week, News Corp. forcefully denied that Murdoch was aware of illicit payments or that he condoned the practice.
“Mr. Murdoch never knew of payments made by Sun staff to police before News Corporation disclosed that to U.K. authorities. Furthermore, he never said he knew of payments. It’s absolutely false to suggest otherwise," News Corp. said in a statement.
The phone-hacking scandal has been enormously costly. News Corp. has spent more than $350 million in legal costs and settlements to victims of the widespread phone hacking. News Corp. nearly two years ago shut down the News of the World tabloid in the wake of the scandal. Since then, journalists with the company's Sun tabloid have been caught up in the police investigation of alleged payments to government officials.
Separately, the U.S. Department of Justice has been reviewing whether the phone hacking and illicit payments generating from News Corp.'s U.K. operations constitute violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids executives who work for U.S.-based companies from bribing foreign officials.
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