News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch has gone on record about the allegations that News of the World, owned by News Corp., hacked the cell phone of a missing girl in the U.K. in 2002. He told News Corp.'s Sky News that the allegations are "deplorable and unacceptable," which is not quite the same thing as saying that the hacking of phones is deplorable and unacceptable.
Murdoch also indicated that News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, who was editor of News of the World when the girl, Milly Dowler, was abducted and ultimately murdered, would remain in her job.
Brooks herself said in a statement that she is "sickened that these events are alleged to have happened...I hope that you all realise it is inconceivable that I knew or worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations."
The Guardian in the U.K. reported that News International is now saying that Brooks was on holiday at the time of the alleged hacking of Dowler's phone.
This is not the first time that News of the World has been accused of phone hacking.
News Corp.'s reaction to this latest crisis, which appears to be focused on the innocence of one of the company's top executives rather than on the subject of phone hacking and its victims, could fall under the category of "too big to have a crisis plan." Perhaps the plan is to circle the wagons and protect company officials, and perhaps News Corp. is so powerful that it can survive any kind of reputational blow.
In reality, it's a business like any other, with a bottom line that can get hurt badly. The most important message—the one that should ring loudest—should be directed at the family of Milly Dowler. Even if the allegations prove false, the family must be suffering through this news cycle, and it must be cold comfort to them that Brooks was on holiday during the worst moment in their lives.