A Parliament hearing into hacking by News Corp. journalists erupted into chaos Tuesday as CEO Rupert Murdoch was attacked by a man heaving a shaving-cream pie.
Wendi Deng Murdoch, the CEO's wife, rose from her seat behind her husband to protect him and took a swing at the intruder. The man was taken away from the scene and the committee temporarily suspended the hearing.
Many News Corp. analysts seemed to share the opinion that the hearing was not as disastrous as expected and may have even helped the company. News Corp.'s stock rose on Tuesday by 83 cents, or 5.5 percent.
"We give [Rupert Murdoch] an A+ for contrition, which probably helps repair his reputation a bit," David Bank, analyst with RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a recap of the hearing.
Bank also wrote that James Murdoch was "really the star of the show, and his credibility was probably enhanced." Murdoch's youngest son said he was not working directly with News International when the hacking first began.
"He acknowledged that he was informed about key follow-up issues like civil settlements but was not a driving force behind them," Bank wrote.
James Murdoch, 38, is deputy chief operating officer of News Corp. and chairman and CEO of News International. He is in part blamed for mishandling the debacle that also led News Corp. to withdraw its takeover bid for pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB on July 13.
James has been criticized for responding too slowly to initial allegations that the tabloid was engaging in illegal phone-hacking. News International apologized in rival national newspapers over the weekend for its wrongdoings.
The Murdochs did not reveal any crucial information that could implicate them in additional phone hacking scandals, saying they were "unaware" of phone hacking with respect to victims of the 9/11 attacks. The FBI announced they began a preliminary inquiry on July 14 into the matter.
Bank said that even a simple perception that senior management was unaware of any such activity could help keep the issue contained to the United Kingdom, causing American regulators to focus less on hacking.
"I don't think we really learned much today, but that Rupert insists he is both hands on and deeply ignorant of things at his company," Simon Dumenco, media columnist at Advertising Age, said.
The hearing continued after a brief pause, with Rupert Murdoch not wearing his suit jacket and only a handful of spectators allowed in the room. The BBC reported that the alleged attacker was identified as Jonnie Marbles, who calls himself an activist and comedian. Marbles may have self-incriminated himself by tweeting minutes before the attack: It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat
"Mr. Murdoch, your wife has a very good left hook," Tom Watson, member of Parliament, said near the end of the Murdochs' questioning.
Dumenco said the pie, reportedly shaving cream in a tin-foil pan, actually helped the Murdochs' public image.
"My reaction is the pie throwing incident was a total gift to the Murdochs," Dumenco said. "It becomes the visual that everyone focuses on. It steals attention away from essentially empty answers from James in a verbose form, and all–defiant, know-nothing answers from Rupert."