Prince Harry Lawyers Accuse New WaPo Boss and Murdoch of Hacking Cover-Up

Illustration by Luis Rendon/The Daily Beast
Illustration by Luis Rendon/The Daily Beast

A group of British public figures, including Prince Harry and Hugh Grant, on Wednesday sought to amend their phone-hacking lawsuit against Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers (NGN) and rope in some of the company’s current and former top executives—including Murdoch himself and Will Lewis, the new publisher of The Washington Post.

Lawyers for the Duke of Sussex, Grant, and the other claimants alleged on Wednesday that Murdoch, along with Lewis and News U.K. CEO Rebekah Brooks were personally aware of efforts to cover up the company’s yearslong phone-hacking scandal at News of the World and The Sun. The amendments sought to include them in the lawsuit, along with numerous former journalists, executives, and private investigators.

The group raised their allegations as part of their lawsuit against the company over the alleged phone hackings between the late 1990s and 2016. The case is expected to go to trial in January 2025, nearly a year after Harry settled a similar lawsuit against the Daily Mirror’s publisher. The decision to name Lewis in the lawsuit was first reported by Byline Investigates.

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In Wednesday’s hearing, claimant lawyer David Sherborne alleged that NGN’s assertion that “one rogue reporter” was responsible for the phone-hacking scandal was false, according to Reuters. Sherborne sought to introduce evidence from a former IT engineer that would show Brooks’ hard drive may have been deliberately destroyed to cover up her knowledge of the company’s actions. The lawyers had accused Lewis in court documents of similarly working to help cover up the company’s knowledge of the scandal upon his News U.K. hiring in 2010.

NGN lawyer Anthony Hudson pushed back against the proposed amendment, arguing the plaintiffs sought to use the civil lawsuit as a proxy for a public trial over allegations that had already been investigated. “It has become increasingly clear that at least some members of the claimant group appear to be using this document as a vehicle for wider campaigning interests against the tabloid press," Hudson said.

News U.K. also pushed back against the proposed amendment in a statement, saying that Prince Harry and his fellow claimants sought to relitigate issues irrelevant to the lawsuit and distract from the fact that the Crown Prosecution Service, the English equivalent of a district attorney’s office, declined in 2015 to bring charges against the company.

“The attempt to add the amendments now has nothing to do with seeking compensation for victims of phone hacking or unlawful information gathering,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement to The Daily Beast. “They are irrelevant to the fair and just determination of claims.”

New Washington Post Publisher Infuriated His Old News Corp Staff During Phone Hacking Crisis

Murdoch’s alleged knowledge of the company’s phone-hacking scandal has been speculated on for years, but Lewis’ alleged knowledge has faced increased scrutiny since his appointment as The Washington Post’s publisher late last year.

NPR examined Lewis’ role within News U.K. and reported last year how lawyers for Harry and Grant argued he was instrumental in approving efforts to cover up alleged executive knowledge of the company’s efforts. The Daily Beast later reported how Lewis’ role on News Corp’s Management and Standards Committee between 2010 and 2012 often left British journalists angered at how he had them “thrown to the wolves” after they were accused of wrongdoing in the scandal. (Twenty-two Sun journalists were arrested and one was convicted, though that conviction was overturned on appeal.)

Lewis, for his part, has declined to address the scandal in detail, and the Post declined to comment. In an interview with the Post upon accepting the publisher role, he downplayed his involvement on the committee and said he would not discuss the saga further.

“I took a view very early on that I’m never going to talk about it,” he said. “And it’s either right or wrong that I’ve done that.”

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