Rupert Murdoch is "not a fit person" to exercise stewardship of a major international company, a committee of MPs has concluded, in a report highly critical of the mogul and his son James's role in the News of the World phone-hacking affair.
The Commons culture, media and sport select committee also concluded that James Murdoch showed "wilful ignorance" of the extent of phone hacking during 2009 and 2010 – in a highly charged document that saw MPs split on party lines as regards the two Murdochs.
Labour MPs and the sole Liberal Democrat on the committee, Adrian Sanders, voted together in a bloc of six against the five Conservatives to insert the criticisms of Rupert Murdoch and toughen up the remarks about his son James. But the MPs were united in their criticism of other former News International employees.
The cross-party group of MPs said that Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News International, was "complicit" in a cover-up at the newspaper group, and that Colin Myler, former editor of the News of the World, and the paper's ex-head of legal, Tom Crone, deliberately withheld crucial information and answered questions falsely. All three were accused of misleading parliament by the culture select committee.
Rupert Murdoch, the document said, "did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking" and "turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications".
The committee concluded that the culture of the company's newspapers "permeated from the top" and "speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International".
That prompted the MPs' report to say: "We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of major international company."
Hinton, Myler and Crone got hammered by the report:
The culture select committee charged Hinton with being "complicit" in a cover-up of wrongdoing at Rupert Murdoch's media empire.
MPs said that Myler and Crone deliberately withheld crucial information and answered falsely questions put by the committee.
The executives demonstrated contempt for parliament "in the most blatant fashion", the MPs said, in what they described as a corporate attempt to mislead the committee about the true extent of phone hacking at the News of the World.
The MPs said that Hinton, executive chairman of News International until December 2007, had "inexcusably" mislead the committee over his role in authorising the £243,000 payout to Clive Goodman, the former royal editor convicted of phone hacking in January that year.
"We consider, therefore, that Les Hinton was complicit in the cover-up at News International, which included making misleading statements and giving a misleading picture to the committee," the MPs said.
Crone and Myler were accused of deliberately misleading the MPs on the culture select committee in 2009 and again in 2011 about their alleged knowledge that phone hacking went beyond a single "rogue reporter" at the now-closed Sunday tabloid.
"Both Tom Crone and Colin Myler deliberately avoided disclosing crucial information to the committee and, when asked to do, answered questions falsely," the MPs said in the report.
All three executives now face the prospect of being called to apologise before parliament, in a constitutional move that has not been used for almost half a century.
The report could prove especially problematic for Myler, who is only five months into his editorship at the New York Daily News.