Hugh Grant and his grumpy hotness were on the Today Show yesterday to discuss the massive News Corp phone tapping scandal that rocked England and led to the voluntary shutdown of tabloid News of The World. Hugh was one of the first celebrities to draw attention to the issue when he caught a paparazzo on tape bragging about how NOTW had regularly hacked into famous people’s phones to gain leads for stories. Minor details of the scandal were known for some time, and there wasn’t much public outcry about it as people don’t tend to have a lot of sympathy for politicians or the rich and famous. Then the news came out that the scandal went much deeper, and that journalists and private investigators hired by the paper had violated the phones of crime victims, including a missing 13 year-old teenager, families of fallen soldiers and terrorist bombing victims. It was despicable, and the eventual result was a government inquiry and now the arrest of several key executives at News of the World.
In his interview with The Today Show, Matt Lauer asked Hugh why Americans should be concerned about this scandal. He reminded him that News Corp head Rupert Murdoch owns Fox News, 20th Century Fox movie studio and newspapers like the NY Post and The Wall St. Journal. What’s more is that there’s suspicion that victims of the 9/11 tragedy had their phones tapped too.
Wednesday morning on TODAY, Grant spoke with Matt Lauer about the culture of the tabloid press in the U.K., telling Lauer that until the peak of the scandal, when it was revealed the phone of a 13-year-old murder victim was hacked, people believed the paper’s methods were business as usual, and perhaps a justifiable means to an end, so long as the story sold.
“Yeah, that was the culture and still is to a certain extent within the tabloid press in this country. It’s terrifying and if you want to question why didn’t we do anything about it before, the answers are now emerging,” Grant said.
“The police unfortunately deliberately dragged their feet … and the government were equally terrified of him (Murdoch),” Grant said. “He had the power through his papers to get them elected, and his paper knew dirty details about individual MPs (Members of Parliament) and so they were unwilling ever to take him on. Only three weeks ago, all our major politicians were sucking up to Rupert Murdoch and drinking champagne on his lawn at his summer party. It’s almost comic that today they’re almost competing to say terrible words about him.”
Grant did tread more lightly when Lauer asked how concerned those of us in the United States should be about the scandal. However, the actor did say that there’s good reason to question Murdoch here as well.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” he told Lauer. However, “Rupert Murdoch does own an enormous amount of your media, with Fox news and stations, and 20th Century Fox, and some of your newspapers. I think people need to ask themselves, ‘Who is this man who owns such a large part of our media?’”
Ultimately, this story will come down to the issue of blame. In addition to those directly involved at News of the World, should we, the consumers of the news gathered by whatever means possible, shoulder the blame as well? Grant thinks so.
“I think we have to, yeah. It’s a strange business, isn’t it? The speciality of tabloids like that is to find the most common denominator and work out sort of, our worst instincts, and purvey for them and unfortunately they do it extremely well and we are all guilty of falling for that.”
[From The Today Show]
Maybe I’m alone, but Grant still does it for me. He’s older sure but he’s owning it and isn’t getting all jacked to hell like his ex’s latest boytoy. You could tell that Grant got a kick out of recounting how the MPs were partying and drinking with Murdoch up until the latest news broke about how NOTW tapped victims’ phones. He’s had plenty of issues with paparazzi and the tabloid press and he’s having his day now.
As for how this affects the US, Senators are calling for an investigation as to whether 9/11 victims had their phone tapped too. Families of victims are outraged and upset over this potential breach, which brings up so many bad memories for them.
Also, bribes given by News Corp employees to British law enforcement sources may violate US laws prohibiting US employees from paying bribes abroad. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NY) asked the Securities and Exchange commission and Department of Justice to launch an investigation as to whether this was the case. The parent organization of NOTW, News Corp, is a US company.
Maybe this will put a big dent into Murdoch’s media empire. One can only hope.
Update: Thanks to Gloaming for this video of Hugh Grant on BBC News along with the journalist from NOTW he exposed a few months ago. Hugh is awesome.
Hugh Grant is shown on 7/4/11. The dude looks a lot happier lately. Credit: WENN.com