Britain’s Parliament concluded two days of interrogations yesterday, trying to get to the bottom of a hacking scandal that has tainted Rupert Murdoch’s publishing empire and threatened Prime Minister David Cameron’s government.
Investigators are hoping to find out how the now-defunct News of the World obtained access to material printed earlier this spring that proved highly offensive to the tabloid’s readers. It now appears that the ailing Murdoch, during a visit to the NOTW in March, hacked up a lung into an operating printing press, leading to unpleasant red and gray images appearing on newsstands throughout England the next day.
Parliamentarians summoned Murdoch and his son James to London on Tuesday to testify about the growing scandal. James said his father’s News Corporation had since “cleaned up our act, and the press” and would hold its reporters to rigorous new ethics standards going forward.
Rupert spoke infrequently during the session, but at one point noted that a painting of flowers on the wall of the meeting room was “pretty … very nice and pretty”. He appeared frail, disoriented and rumpled during his appearance, provoking one bystander to attempt to forcibly shave him.
Jonnie Marbles, charged by police with assault after applying a plate of shaving cream to Rupert’s wrinkled jowls, said he was just trying to make the doddering media magnate more presentable.
“I had to act quickly, before those stubbly cheeks made an even worse impression on the MPs,” Marbles said. “I had the Gillette Mach3 Turbo ready to go when his wife stopped me. Now it’s all this big misunderstanding.”
James Murdoch provided most of the testimony during the day-long session, but at one point deferred to another witness to speak of his father’s integrity.
“The Rupert I’ve come to know during my years of skateboarding and snowboarding would not intentionally cough up organs into high-speed manufacturing equipment,” said Shaun White, who came to be known as the “Flying Tomato” during his Winter Olympics appearance in 2010. “He’s a radical and righteous dude who has achieved major Big Air in the communications field.”
On Wednesday, it was Prime Minister Cameron’s turn to explain why his government allowed the scandal to develop, and why he had hired Andy Coulson, a former editor at News of the World, as his communications director.
It was a raucous session, similar to Parliament’s weekly “question time,” where MPs rudely hurl insults and accusations at each other in a virtual free-for-all. Cameron tried to cool tempers in the opposition Labour Party by bringing a big plate of cookies to legislators — “better than the pie you had yesterday,” he joked — but it failed to halt the stream of invectives directed at him.
“You suck, and you do it with precision and vigor,” shouted MP Nigel Adams.
“If the minister from Selby would allow me …” Cameron responded before being interrupted again.
“I would also point out that you’re ugly and so is your wife,” bellowed Glyn Davies of Gordon. “Why don’t you just go home and leave us alone?”
“I am here today to defend my …” Cameron interjected.
“Crikey, but you’re a stupid wanker,” noted MP David Laws.
Cameron tried to lay out a defense of the Conservative Party’s role in the hacking scandal, but could barely get a word in amidst catcalls and curses.
“You sound like some kind of ‘nancy boy’ with that accent of yours,” sniffed Nick Gibb of Littlehampton.
“Never mind the bollocks,” shouted Rotherham’s Denis MacShane. “We demand to see the queen! And Princess Kate too! And make sure she wears something tight. Kate, not the Queen.”
“I say, old chap,” yelled MP Graham Stewart. “You are what’s known in the parlance of the gutter as a ‘douchebag.'”