Rupert Murdoch has labelled victims of phone hacking "scumbag celebrities" after they met British Prime Minister David Cameron during the Conservative party conference.
Murdoch took to social networking site Twitter on Saturday night to criticise the talks in Birmingham between Cameron and members of the Hacked Off campaign, including singer Charlotte Church, former Crimewatch TV presenter Jacqui Hames and actor Hugh Grant.
Murdoch tweeted: "Told UK's Cameron receiving scumbag celebrities pushing for even more privacy laws. Trust the toffs! Transparency under attack. Bad."
The comments sparked a storm of outrage, with demands for Murdoch to apologise and remove the tweets.
Hames tweeted the head of News Corporation: "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story, eh, Rupert. Happy to discuss our concerns with you sometime? … I've been called worse, but admittedly not by CEO of large multinational corp."
While Murdoch replied saying he had not been "referring to these ladies", Thais Portilho-Shrimpton, a journalist and former co-ordinator of the Hacked Off campaign, tweeted that she had set up a meeting "between PM, a former Crimewatch presenter, a singer and an actor".
She concluded: "You must be referring to all."
The former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris joined the chorus of disapproval, tweeting: "By 'scumbag celebs' do u mean the WPC [woman police constable] u put under surveillance, the teen girl yr papers perved over, or the actor u hacked?"
He accused Murdoch of being disingenuous and hypocritical. "I was at [the] meeting & unlike yr secret meetngs w/ PMs promoting yr business, the victims went in front door & told media abt it."
Another Twitter user asked: "Scumbags? And your journalists and executives are what?"
Murdoch replied: "They don't get arrested for indecency on major LA highways! Or abandon [their] love child", a reference to Grant's widely-reported romantic endeavours.
The tycoon later tried to clarify his initial remark. "I never referred to any particular people, just some 'dodgy' self promoting celebrities." He added: "Repeat, apology for language."