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Murdoch giving evidence to MPs today. AP Photo/Parliamentary Recording Unit via APTN
Hacking

Watch: Murdoch rejects 'mafia' assertion in evidence to MPs

The News Corporation came under heavy attack as he gave more evidence to MPs today.

JAMES MURDOCH INSISTED that he told the truth when he said he’d been kept in the dark about the culture of criminality at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid as he appeared in front of UK parliamentary committee today.

In comments to often-sceptical and sometimes hostile lawmakers, Murdoch stuck to his guns, accusing his former subordinates of blind-siding him and misleading Parliament over the extent of the phone hacking that has shaken his father Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

“Any suspicion of wider-spread wrongdoing, none of that was mentioned to me,” the junior Murdoch said, taking the same stance he took before Parliament during testimony in July despite increasing evidence linking him to the scandal.

Murdoch’s repeated denials that he’d seen critical evidence of widespread criminality at his company prompted derisive comments from the lawmakers investigating the scandal.

“You must be the first mafia boss in history who didn’t think he was running a criminal enterprise,” said Labour’s Tom Watson, a strident Murdoch critic.

Murdoch, stony-faced, called the comment inappropriate.

Watch:

(via )

He laid the blame squarely at the door of the News of the World’s former editor, Colin Myler, and News International’s former legal adviser, Tom Crone, both of whom insist that they briefed Murdoch as long ago as early 2008 about damning evidence that proved that phone hacking went much further than had previously been acknowledged.

Dispute

“I believe their testimony was misleading, and I dispute it,” Murdoch said.

The finger-pointing follows months of drip-drip revelations that undermined Murdoch’s credibility.

Crone and Myler’s account of events has called Murdoch’s credibility into question. Documents published in the months since James Murdoch’s earlier appearance in Parliament — in which he insisted he was not informed of the scale of the scandal — have been particularly damning.

One, written by a senior lawyer, warned Murdoch’s News International that there was “overwhelming evidence” that some of its most senior journalists had been involved in illegal practices. “No documents were shown to me,” Murdoch said.

Murdoch responded to questions quickly and confidently — occasionally striking an apologetic tone when questions steered him toward his company’s failure to get to grips with the scandal.

He said executives at the company had given assurances, and that the company “relied on those assurances for too long.”

“I’m sorry for that,” he said. He also apologised for the use of a private investigator to tail the lawyers of phone hacking victims, calling the practice “appalling.”

Again, he blamed Crone for commissioning the surveillance, adding that it was “something I would never condone.”

High stakes

The phone hacking scandal has thrown News International, the British newspaper arm of media conglomerate News Corp., into turmoil, forcing the closure of the News of the World and scuttling a multibillion pound (dollar) bid for full control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

Revelations that journalists routinely intercepted the voice mails of public figures, including celebrities, politicians, police, and even crime victims have also sent shock waves across the British establishment.

The stakes are high: Investors have become increasingly restive as the scandal continues to spread. Murdoch’s position as heir apparent to his father’s company is under threat.

Media commentator and former tabloid editor Paul Connew on Thursday expressed some sympathy with James Murdoch, noting that the fresh-faced TV executive had just taken over his father’s UK newspaper business taken when efforts to contain the scandal were launched.

“It’s quite possible that people didn’t actually level with James Murdoch,” Connew said ahead of Murdoch’stestimony.

Still, Murdoch was in for a rough ride.

“He’s under more pressure now than he’s ever been,” Connew said.

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Associated Foreign Press
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