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The 12 Nastiest Villains in the Murdoch Phone-Hacking Scandal

Here's an incomplete guide to the villains in the drama that threatens to take down the Murdoch empire.

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9. Andy Coulson. Former editor, News of the World (until 2009); former communications director of Conservative Party (until January 2011). Presided over News of the World at the height of its phone-hacking into the voice-mail accounts of numerous celebrities, including actors Sienna Miller and Jude Law, as well as possibly the accounts of victims of the 2007 terrorist bombings of the London subway by al Qaeda. In 2009, Coulson stepped down from his position at News of the World, when the scandal re-erupted, but was hired by the Conservative Party during David Cameron’s successful bid to unseat then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the Labour Party. When the scandal flared up again at the end of 2010, Coulson resigned his post in the Conservative Party. Up until that point, Coulson maintained he had no knowledge of phone-hacking, but the New York Times interviewed a former News of the World reporter, Sean Hoare, who said he had shared recordings of hacked messages with his friend Coulson. (Hoare was found dead in his home yesterday; according to the  Guardian, authorities describe his death as “unexplained but not thought to be suspicious.”) Coulson was arrested on July 8 in the current investigation of  News of the World phone-hacking and bribery. 

10. David Cameron. Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, leader of the Conservative Party. Against the advice of Nick Clegg, his deputy prime minister, Cameron hired Andy Coulson as his spokesperson after the election, even though the phone-hacking scandal continued to dog Coulson. Even after Coulson resigned as Cameron’s communications director in the wake of further revelations implicating him in the phone-hacking operations, Cameron continued to meet with him. Cameron also enjoys a cozy relationship with Rebekah Brooks, entertaining her and other News Corp. editors frequently. In a Guardian story about the cozy relationships between Murdoch and the British elite, John Harris describes how Murdoch enlisted Cameron to undermine the BBC, the publicly funded broadcaster:

[I]n the summer of 2008, David Cameron was transported in a private plane...to the Greek island of Santorini, from where he was ferried to Rupert Murdoch's 184ft yacht the Rosehearty, for an important meeting. The following year, the Tories began to harden a new antipathy to the BBC, floating the freezing of the licence fee and urging the corporation to do "more with less": messages that were in accord with the chippy anti-BBC lecture James Murdoch gave at that year's Edinburgh TV festival. Just over a month later came achingly predictable news: that the Sun was swinging its support behind the Conservatives, and dumping [the] Labour [Party].

11. James Murdoch. Son of News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, and deputy COO of the company. Authorized high-figure cash settlements to several high-profile victims of phone-hacking by News of the World in exchange for their silence. The largest reported payment was to Gordon Taylor, head of the International Footballers Association, to the tune of £700,000 (more than $1 million U.S.). James Murdoch who was called in to manage the scandal. He made News Corp.’s official statement when company executives decided to permanently shut down News of the World after the Milly Dowler revelations and subsequent reporting by the Guardian.

12. Rupert Murdoch. Chairman and CEO, News Corporation. Runs his publicly traded company like a personal dynasty, and uses News Corp. media properties to advance an anti-labor, deregulatory political agenda designed not for the benefit of readers or shareholders, but for the consolidation of his own personal power, and that of his family. So feared in Britain that no politician would challenge wrongdoing by any of his media properties until the Dowler incident turned the British people against him. In the United States, he has used News Corp. media outlets for direct political organizing against a sitting president of the United States, allowing Fox News personalities to organize rallies, and allowing an editorial board member of the Wall Street Journal to collect speaking fees for appearances at political events convened by David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which serves as an organizing body for the Tea Party movement.