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Hugh Grant on TODAY: News of the World scandal is 'terrifying'

July 13, 2011 at 8:11 AM ET

With the announcement of the shuttering of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World came news that actor Hugh Grant played a part in exposing the phone hacking scandal that led to the paper’s downfall.

Wednesday morning on TODAY, Grant spoke with Matt Lauer about the culture of the tabloid press in the U.K., telling Lauer that until the peak of the scandal, when it was revealed the phone of a 13-year-old murder victim was hacked, people believed the paper’s methods were business as usual, and perhaps a justifiable means to an end, so long as the story sold.

"Yeah, that was the culture and still is to a certain extent within the tabloid press in this country. It’s terrifying and if you want to question why didn’t we do anything about it before, the answers are now emerging," Grant said.

"The police unfortunately deliberately dragged their feet ... and the government were equally terrified of him (Murdoch)," Grant said. "He had the power through his papers to get them elected, and his paper knew dirty details about individual MPs (Members of Parliament) and so they were unwilling ever to take him on. Only three weeks ago, all our major politicians were sucking up to Rupert Murdoch and drinking champagne on his lawn at his summer party. It’s almost comic that today they’re almost competing to say terrible words about him."

Grant did tread more lightly when Lauer asked how concerned those of us in the United States should be about the scandal. However, the actor did say that there's good reason to question Murdoch here as well.

"I don’t know the answer to that," he told Lauer. However, "Rupert Murdoch does own an enormous amount of your media, with Fox news and stations, and 20th Century Fox, and some of your newspapers. I think people need to ask themselves, 'Who is this man who owns such a large part of our media?'"

Ultimately, this story will come down to the issue of blame. In addition to those directly involved at News of the World, should we, the consumers of the news gathered by whatever means possible, shoulder the blame as well? Grant thinks so.

"I think we have to, yeah. It’s a strange business, isn’t it? The speciality of tabloids like that is to find the most common denominator and work out sort of, our worst instincts, and purvey for them and unfortunately they do it extremely well and we are all guilty of falling for that."

Grant has been doing his part to expose the paper's methodology. In a recent interview with the BBC, Grant recalled an incident where an ex-News of the World features editor, Paul McMullan, snapped photos of him, and in the course of doing so, "he starting boasting how my phone had been hacked, and all the dirtiest tactics of the News of the World" Grant told the BBC. "I was revolted and astonished."

A few months later, Grant visited the pub McMullan owned, and recorded him talking about the paper's tactics. Grant had the story published in the New Statesman.

What do you think of Grant's comments? Do you think the media-consuming public feeds the tabloid beast? Share your thoughts on Facebook.

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