The British parliamentary committee tasked with quizzing Rebekah Brooks and Rupert and James Murdoch over their roles in the phone hacking scandal should not act as a “lynch mob”, its chairman said today.
Conservative MP John Whittingdale said he hoped his 10-strong Culture, Media and Sport Committee would be “calm” at Tuesday’s meeting but not “let them off”.
Following Ms Brooks’ resignation on Friday, it is likely she will now be questioned separately to News Corporation chief executive Mr Murdoch and his News International chairman son James, the MP said.
And Mr Whittingdale defended reports that he was Facebook “friends” with Ms Brooks, insisting he had met “almost every major figure in the media”.
He told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “I don’t want us to be a lynch mob. On the other hand I don’t want us to let them off without properly addressing the questions which we have.
“So I hope, and I’m sure my colleagues on the committee will take the same view, that we will be calm and we will ask factual, detailed questions.”
He added: “The sole purpose of the committee is to try and get closer to what actually happened and to uncover the truth.
“I would like and I hope there is a good chance that all three of the witnesses will come determined to try and do their best to help us.
“We obviously understand there’s an ongoing police inquiry but that shouldn’t, I think, prevent us from learning a lot more about what went on, who knew it and who authorised it.”
Mr Whittingdale was asked about reports that he was friends online with senior figures in Mr Murdoch’s media empire.
“I have 570 friends on Facebook, whether or not Rebekah Brooks is still one of them I rather doubt since I’ve summoned her to appear before me,” he said.
“I have been doing the Culture, Media and Sport brief in one capacity or another for 10 years. I’ve met almost every major figure in the media.
“This story appears in the Independent on Sunday – I’ve met Alexander Lebedev (Independent owner), he’s not a Facebook friend but that’s probably because he’s not on Facebook I suspect.”
News International has placed a second round of adverts in today’s national newspapers apologising for wrongdoing and declaring there should be “no place to hide” from the police investigation.