Prince Harry targets Rupert Murdoch in phone hacking lawsuit, alleges mogul was involved in

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Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. Sign up for the daily digest chronicling the evolving media landscape here.


New York
CNN
 — 

Rupert Murdoch is at risk of being personally dragged into another major lawsuit.

Lawyers for Prince Harry and a number of other notable public figures, including Guy Ritchie and Hugh Grant, asked a U.K. court on Wednesday for permission to amend their lawsuit against Murdoch’s British newspaper company, leveling the explosive allegation that the billionaire media mogul was personally involved in covering up wrongdoing.

The lawsuit, filed in 2019, accuses News Group Newspapers, the parent company of The Sun tabloid and defunct News of the World, of illegal privacy invasions, including hacking. The illicit behavior occurred from the mid-1990s until 2016, according to the lawsuit.

Lawyers for the Duke of Sussex now want to include claims that Murdoch personally provided “knowingly false” information on the matter. They also allege Rebekah Brooks, a top Murdoch lieutenant who currently oversees his British newspapers, of having also “lied and/or gave deliberately misleading evidence.”

Executives at the newspaper group, including Murdoch, publicly promoted the false claim that there was only “one rogue reporter” in the News of the World scandal and attempted to “buy” the silence of senior executives, Harry’s lawyers said. The lawyers added that “they would not have been carrying out this extensive concealment and destruction strategy without the knowledge and approval of Rupert Murdoch and [his son and then-executive chairman] James Murdoch.”

NGN aggressively pushed back on the allegations, with a spokesperson saying in a statement that they amounted to a “scurrilous and cynical attack on their integrity” and “have nothing to do with seeking compensation for victims of phone hacking or unlawful information gathering.”

“Some of these allegations date back to events now thirty years old and relate to allegations which are irrelevant to the matters which are now in issue between the parties,” the spokesperson added.

The high-profile suit threatens to further mar the legacy of Murdoch as the nonagenarian enters the twilight of his career and comes in the wake of multiple damaging lawsuits against Fox News, the highly profitable crown jewel of his global media empire.

And the case brewing in the U.K., which is set to go to trial early next year, has the potential to have larger ramifications, rippling across the pond to the U.S. Not only is Murdoch at the center of the lawsuit, but his former deputy turned Washington Post chief executive and publisher Will Lewis is also facing allegations of engaging in the alleged cover-up. (It goes without saying that Lewis has denied all wrongdoing.)

The phone hacking scandal rocked Murdoch’s media empire more than a decade ago and marked one of the lowest moments in the billionaire’s career. At the time, NGN issued an apology to victims, Murdoch shut down the popular News of the World, and the company has since settled hundreds of legal cases stemming from the scandal.

Illegal phone hacking was not unique to Murdoch’s U.K. publications. The bad behavior extended to other outlets, with the country’s notoriously aggressive tabloid press doing whatever it could to dig up celebrity dirt. Just last year a court ruled that Harry was also the victim of “extensive” phone hacking by Mirror Group Newspapers. Harry is also suing the publisher of the Daily Mail. And he said that Murdoch’s newspapers paid his brother, Prince William, a “large sum” to settle hacking claims.

On Wednesday, NGN said it wants to put its own scandal to bed.

“These proceedings have now been going on for over fifteen years,” the spokesperson said, “and NGN is seeking to bring them to a close.”

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