MSNBC's Contessa Brewer: Pie Attack on Murdoch 'Encapsulates What the British People are Feeling'

MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer on Tuesday insisted that a pie throwing attack on Rupert Murdoch, which occurred live on air, "encapsulates what the British people are feeling right now about Rupert Murdoch."

As the cable network aired live coverage of Murdoch's testimony to the British Parliament about the phone hacking scandal, a man appeared in the left corner of the screen and attempted to attack the media mogul. See video below. MP3 audio here.

 

Brewer described the event as the "attention getter of the day." She highlighted members of Parliament "looking on in horror and then oddly added, "And I think, in some ways, this encapsulates what the British people are feeling right now about Rupert Murdoch and those involved in this phone hacking scandal."

Considering that no one knew at the time what the man's intentions were and what contents made up the pie, it's odd to link such an extremist to the legitimate anger Britons feel over the hacking.

Thanks to MRC intern Alex Fitzsimmons for the video.

A transcript of the exchange, which occurred at 12:06pm EDT on MSNBC News Live, follows:


07/19/11

CONTESSA BREWER: Yeah, we're just being told a white substance. And that picture of the protester after he'd been taken into police custody. And the protester himself has it covering his face and his shoulders and neck. There he is behind the glass and we can see him his arms now cuffed behind his back in custody of police. It does seem like we've been told that Rupert Murdoch did get some of that white substance on him. And then, as you mention here, Wendy Deng jumped up to defend her husband.

We saw kind of an arm swat there many the video. I mean, the thing is we've been watching this testimony for the last few hours here. It's been compelling testimony in and of itself, Thomas. And then this has been the attention getter of the day. When you're standing here and you're listening to it and all of a sudden you hear the whole crowd, the MPs, the members of Parliament who have been involved in the questioning erupting audibly and looking with horror. And you can see that reaction from James Murdoch, you know, "What's going on here?" That was the attention-getter. And I think, in some ways, this encapsulates what the British people are feeling right now about Rupert Murdoch and those involved in this phone hacking scandal.

Richard Wolffe is an MSNBC contributor and has been following this as well. The testimony today though polite, though the questions and answers have been mostly civil. They have been tough.

RICHARD WOLFE: They have been tough. And this whole experience never mind actually what the Brits would call that is a custard pie confusingly with shaving cream. But, anyway, absent that, this is all a new experience for the British public and for the members of Parliament. These committees that you're seeing may be familiar over here, they're a relatively new phenomenon. They came up in 1979. They weren't given any teeth. And it's really since the expenses scandal in London involving some of the people around that table that these committees have taken on these new powers. So, the whole thing, you know, Rupert Murdoch said early on this was the most humble day of his life. And the whole experience is humbling for the people. At one end the Murdochs, never mind again this outrageous attack on him, but it's also interesting seeing these MPs, these members of Parliament trying to figure out what is the right approach here. Cross examining, trying to get at the story. There's legal disputes. And of course you have the Murdochs trying to say we knew nothing. We were running a big company, we knew nothing.

Update 14:40 | Aubrey Vaughan. Some more details on the attack. It occurred after over two hours of testimony, when a man in a plaid shirt ran towards Murdoch with the foam pie. Prior to the attack, Murdoch and his son had been answering a series of tough questions from the committee.

Murdoch called the hearing the most humble day of his life, a day which had been spent pushing back against accusations of wrongdoing in his company's News of the World phone hacking scandal. Murdoch insisted he was not responsible for the scandal, nor had his company turned a blind eye toward the alleged phone hacking.

As the UK's the Independent described the incident,

Mr Murdoch, 80, was apparently pelted with a plate of foam.

MP Chris Bryant condemned the attack in which he said the media mogul had the plate pushed into his face.

James Murdoch was in mid-sentence as the attacked was launched.

Wendi Murdoch, who had sat behind her husband throughout his appearance before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, appeared to strike back at the assailant in defence of her husband.

Eyewitnesses said a member of the audience sat at the back of the room stood up and walked around to the front where Mr. Murdoch was giving evidence and threw what appeared to be a paper plate covered in shaving foam at him.

As the protester was being taken from the room, Mr Murdoch's wife threw the empty paper plate at him.

The attack, which follows yesterday's LulzSec hacking of two News Corporation websites for the British newspapers the Times and the Sun, came from a self-described activist named Jonathan May-Bowles.

Right before throwing the pie at Murdoch, May-Bowles modified a Charles Dickens quote by tweeting "It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat." His Twitter account also has a number of other anti-Murdoch tweets that appear to have been sent from the hearing. He is currently being held in police custody after being escorted out of the hearing.

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Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org