Hugh Grant on News of the World Scandal: 'Government Did Nothing ... Because of Their Terror of the Press'


Hugh Grant Describes When He Got Paul McMullan to Confirm the British Tabloid's Tactics

Three months later, Grant said, he decided to stop by McMullan's pub in Dover, England, while wearing a recording device, and he got McMullan to confirm the paper's tactics. Grant then published his recordings in the British magazine, New Statesman.

According to Grant, McMullan said he "thought they probably had hacked the messages of the family and friends of little girls murdered in a place called Soham in England, and the Milly Dowler case," Grant said.

Despite the scandal, Grant said he still believes in a system that allows freedom of the press.

"My main motive in all this has been to just bring it out into the public and to let people know that there's this scam going on," he said.

Earlier today, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron announced that a criminal investigation is underway and investigators are reviewing 11,000 pages of documents containing nearly 4,000 names and thousands of phone numbers. About 180 people whose identities were found in the documents have been notified, so far.

If News Corp. International is found criminally liable, Cameron said, the organization would have "no further role in the media in our country."

News Corp. was also in negotiations to take over the British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) satellite network, but has now withdrawn its $12 billion bid, saying that "It is too difficult to progress in this climate."

"They should stop thinking about mergers until they sort out the mess they've created," Cameron told a packed House of Commons. "There needs to be root-and-branch change at this entire organization."

Murdoch has been in London since Sunday to try to contain the crisis. The News of the World wasn't just another paper in Murdoch's portfolio; it was the best-selling and most-profitable Sunday paper in Britain.

James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch's son and heir, announced last week that the newspaper would print its last issue on July 10 after 168 years of being in print, leaving its 270-person staff without jobs.

"We praised high standards, we demanded high standards but, as we are now only too painfully aware, for a period of a few years up to 2006 some who worked for us, or in our name, fell shamefully short of those standards," the paper said in a full-page editorial. "Quite simply, we lost our way. Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry."

The scandal has been simmering in Britain for months, but it exploded last week, when it was alleged that News of the World hacked the cell phone of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl who disappeared in March 2002. Reports suggested a News of the World employee not only listened to the teenager's voicemail, but deleted voicemail messages hoping to leave space for more -- leading her parents to believe she was still alive. Her remains were found southwest of London six months later, and a man was convicted this spring of killing her.

"My life's not horrible," Hugh Grant said. "I've had some success. People spoil me and flatter me. The people who really suffer are people who are not in the public eye -- just innocent or have, perhaps, been involved in some tragedy."

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