The former chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, has described himself as a victim and blamed the liberal media for the downfall of his former employer.
In a fraught appearance before MPs this afternoon, Nix said news organisations had sought to undermine the company in order to challenge the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s presidency.
Over the course of nearly four hours, Nix launched a series of attacks on the Guardian, Channel 4 News, whistleblower Chris Wiley and the UK’s data protection watchdog.
Nix stepped down from the helm of Cambridge Analytica in April after Channel 4 broadcast footage of him telling an undercover reporter the company could send “Ukrainian girls” to a rival politician’s home.
The report came just days after the Observer and the New York Times reported that the firm had commissioned an academic to harvest tens of millions of Facebook users’ data without their permission. Cambridge Analytica filed for bankruptcy two months later.
Nix dodged MPs’ questions about the nature of the harvested data, saying he could not comment on the subject because the Information Commissioner’s Office’s investigation was ongoing.
But he said he should have been clearer with MPs when they asked him about the company’s use of the data during his first appearance before the committee in February. Nix said he thought he had been asked if Cambridge Analytica was still using the data.
“At that stage we had deleted all of that data, but, on listening back to the transcript, it was clear I was asked whether we had ever been supplied with that data and my answer should have been yes,” he said. “At the time we had no reason to believe that it had been collected improperly.”
In a particularly heated exchange, Brendan O’Hara, an SNP MP, told Nix: “You have attempted to paint yourself as the victim. By no stretch of the imagination can you be seen as the victim.”
Nix responded by asking “what if I am a victim?” – before denying that Cambridge Analytica had carried out work in the Brexit referendum.
Wrapping up the session, the chair of the committee, Damian Collins, told Nix: “A lot of the allegations against you have come from people who worked with you – not just Mr Wylie, but others too. Questions will remain, at least while people speak of you that way.”