Rebekah Brooks spearheaded a strategy designed to implicate other British newspapers in the phone-hacking scandal, according to the New York Times. Based on a series of interviews with former News International staff, the newspaper claims that Brooks asked News of the World journalists to find evidence of hacking by other papers.
The paper reports that Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, told senior managers that he had been told by PR agencies, businessmen and footballers that executives at News International had urged them to look into whether their phones had been hacked by journalists working for the Mail group. It even suggests that Murdoch himself warned Dacre to be careful:
At a private meeting, Rupert Murdoch warned Paul Dacre, the editor of the rival Daily Mail newspaper and one of the most powerful men on Fleet Street, that “we are not going to be the only bad dog on the street,” according to an account that Mr. Dacre gave to his management team. Mr. Murdoch’s spokesman did not respond to questions about his private conversations.
According to the report, Dacre confronted Brooks at a hotel after hearing that she was targeting his paper, saying:
You are trying to tear down the entire industry.
In another incident, Lady Claudia Rothermere, the wife of the owner of the Mail, is said to have overheard Brooks say at a dinner party that the Mail was just as blameworthy as the News of the World:
“We didn’t break the law,” Lady Rothermere said, according to two sources with knowledge of the exchange. Ms. Brooks asked who Lady Rothermere thought she was, “Mother Teresa?”
Given that the Daily Mail is widely expected to gain the most from the demise of the News of the World, it is safe to say the strategy didn’t work (nor did Brooks’ apparent wish to take down the Guardian). However, in a story with so many twists and turns, it is not inconceivable to imagine that other newspapers will yet be drawn into the scandal. Dacre — live in fear.