LONDON — It’s the most explosive line in the report, and the line that some Conservative lawmakers said they could not cross.
The finding that Rupert Murdoch is “not a fit person” to head a major international company led the news in Britain after the release of a report Tuesday by a parliamentary committee looking into the phone-hacking scandal at Murdoch’s giant News Corp.
But that one line — an extraordinary personal criticism of the media magnate — turned the report into something of a political football, dividing the parliamentary committee along party lines and preventing the panel’s full endorsement of the report.
The committee unanimously agreed that three of News Corp.’s senior executives in effect lied to lawmakers about the extent of hacking at the News of the World tabloid.
Instead of being the work of a lone reporter, intercepting private voicemails now seems to have been practiced on an almost industrial scale at the newspaper, which Murdoch closed down last summer.
But to then make a judgment as to Rupert Murdoch’s fitness to run News Corp. “was wildly outside the scope” of the committee’s purview, said Louise Mensch, a Conservative Party lawmaker on the panel.
Mensch castigated the Labor and Liberal Democratic members of the committee for sacrificing unanimity by insisting on inclusion of that line. In the end, Mensch and three fellow Conservatives withheld their support of the report in a 6-4 vote.