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Murdoch: Hacking scandal cost 'hundreds of millions'

Rupert Mudoch told British lawmakers he "failed" and repeatedly apologized about the phone hacking scandal at his tabloid newspaper The News of the World. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.

Updated at 8:05 a.m. ET: Rupert Murdoch on Thursday said he had spent "hundreds of millions of dollars" to clean-up the legal and ethical mess caused by phone-hacking at the now-shuttered News of the World tabloid.

"I pledged I would clean it up and I did. I have spent hundreds of millions of dollars … We had electronically examined 300 million emails … and anything that was faintly suspicious was passed to the police," he told a public inquiry into media ethics in Britain.

The News of the World was the top-selling Sunday tabloid that rocked the British establishment after evidence emerged of police corruption and too-cozy links between the press and politicians.

Murdoch admitted that he had failed to properly oversee the News of the World but deflected charges that he was aware that journalists there were involved with illegal and unethical activities.

"I also have to say that I failed," he said. "I'm guilty of not having paid enough attention to the News of the World probably throughout all the time that we've owned it."

Rupert Murdoch returned to the Leveson Inquiry to give evidence for a second day. ITV's Paul Davis reports.

Murdoch shuttered the 168-year-old tabloid as the scandal spread last year and News International has been hit with over 100 lawsuits over phone hacking and dozens of reporters and media executives have been arrested.

However, the 81-year-old media mogul said he was "misinformed and shielded" from illegal and unethical activity at the News of the World, and that others were to blame for hiding the extent of the scandal from top editors and executives.

"I think from within the News of the World, there were one or two very strong characters there who I think had been there many, many, many years and were friends of the journalists, or the person I'm thinking of was a friend of the journalists and a drinking pal and a clever lawyer, and forbade them ... this person forbade people to go and report to (Rebekah) Brooks or to James (Murdoch)."

Ben Stansall / AFP - Getty Images

Rupert Murdoch, his wife Wendi Deng and son Lachlan (left) leave their London home on Wednesday.

Brooks was chief executive of News International, the newspaper's publisher, editor of News of the World and a Murdoch favorite. Rupert Murdoch's son James, who stepped down this month as chairman of broadcaster BSkyB, appeared before the inquiry on Tuesday.

Rupert Murdoch grilled at UK phone-hack inquiry

During an exchange with a lawyer acting on behalf of the inquiry, Robert Jay, Murdoch admitted that he "panicked" when the Milly Dowler scandal broke. Revelations that News of the World journalists hacked into the missing 13-year-old's cellphone -- she was later found murdered -- provoked an enormous public outcry.

The media baron also said the scandals involving the newspaper had hurt his legacy.

"I think historically this whole business is a serious blot on my reputation," he said.

Not a puppet master?
On Wednesday, Murdoch denied charges that his media empire played puppet master to a succession of British prime ministers.

"I have never asked a prime minister for anything," he said during the hearings into media ethics in London on Wednesday.

The appearance before a judge by the world's most powerful media mogul has been a defining moment in a scandal that has laid bare collusion between ministers, police and Murdoch's News Corp., reigniting long-held concerns over the close ties between big money, the media and power in Britain. 

 U.S.-based News Corp.'s feet are being held to the fire at the hearings but it isn't the only challenge the company faces. There are three ongoing police investigations, dozens of people have been arrested.  Eleven of those arrested could soon be facing criminal charges.

News Corp. is worth an estimated $60 billion and owns influential media companies including Fox Television and the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, the British minister accused of giving Murdoch special access during the media tycoon's bid to increase his hold on Britain's television industry on Wednesday labeled accusations against him as "laughable."

Jeremy Hunt, the culture minister who was last year tasked with reviewing Murdoch's $12-billion plan to boost his stake in British pay TV operator BSkyB, is under immense pressure to resign after allegations emerged of his close contacts with News Corp.

While testifying before the Leveson inquiry on media ethics, the media mogul responded to allegations that he had abused his power to influence the British government. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.

On Tuesday, Murdoch's media executive son James said Hunt had given News Corp special treatment during talks surrounding the government's decision on whether to allow the TV deal to go ahead.

"The idea I was backing this bid is laughable," a visibly flustered Hunt told parliament to roars of approval from his own Conservative Party and jeers of derision from the opposition Labour party, which has led calls for him to be sacked.

The furor is the latest blow to Prime Minister David Cameron's government after a torrid month in which he has lurched from crisis to crisis, garnering an embarrassing slew of negative headlines and raising questions over his leadership.

Chiara Francavilla, NBC News in London, and Reuters contributed to this report.

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