This is a major development in the Rupert Murdoch phone-hacking scandal, and suggests that the story is now spreading to American shores on a new level:
Angry family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks on Wednesday called for a U.S. investigation into allegations that journalists at the British News of the World tabloid sought to hack the phones of their lost love ones.
“Someone should look into it to see if their rights were violated — the family members I’ve talked to are appalled, they’re disgruntled, they have to relive the pain all over again,” Jim Riches, a former deputy chief in the New York Fire Department whose 29-year-old fireman son was killed in the attacks, told POLITICO.
“I think they crossed the line. They’re trying to get messages from loved ones in the last moments of their lives. It’s horrible, and they should be held accountable. It’s despicable and unethical,” Riches added.
Sally Regenhard, vice chairwoman of 9/11 Parents and Families of Firefighters & World Trade Center Victims, said that she also supports an American probe and added that the latest allegations come at a particularly hard time for victims’ families.
“It’s hard enough for people to deal with the 10th anniversary and now this — it just adds more salt to the wounds,” said Regenhard, who lost her 28-year-old firefighter son, on Sept. 11.
New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg has already called for an SEC probe into the general conduct of Murdoch’s media empire. But now we’ve got actual 9/11 families demanding an investigation into the specific — and incendiary — allegation that News of the World reporters tried to hack the phones of the 9/11 dead.
We don’t yet know a lot about these allegations, and it’s unclear what sort of probe could or should be launched or who would have juristiction. But the immediate question is this: If this latest chapter gains traction, how will New York’s leading politicians respond? First off, there are the local politicians with a national voice, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo, both of whom have enjoyed good relationships with Murdoch’s influential New York Post. The paper beat up on Bloomberg’s “nanny state” initiatives and tax hikes, but it has been broadly supportive of the Mayor, and even more so of Cuomo. Now that there’s a highly emotional local angle, will they join in calls for a probe or generally comment on the allegations?
What about Congress? What will senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand say? And how about Rudy “noun verb 9/11” Giuliani? Murdoch long served as one of Rudy’s most loyal and influential allies. But now one of his papers is accused of violating the rights of families of those who perished on 9/11, which Rudy has treated as a defining, life-altering event. Will Rudy say something about this?
These folks are now in a very interesting position, and this story may have just gotten a whole lot bigger.
UPDATE: It’s the families of victims whose rights would have been violated. I’ve edited the above to correct.