LONDON — James Murdoch told Parliament Thursday that he'd 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.
In comments to often-skeptical and occasionally hostile lawmakers, Murdoch stuck to his guns, accusing his former subordinates of keeping him in the dark 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 lawmaker Tom Watson, a strident Murdoch critic.
Murdoch, stony-faced, called the comment inappropriate.
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 about damning evidence which proved that phone hacking went much further than had previously been acknowledged.
"I believe their testimony was misleading, and I dispute it," Murdoch said.
The finger-pointing follows months of drip-drip revelations which have 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 blind-sided by 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.
The phone hacking scandal has thrown News International, the British newspaper arm of media conglomerate News Corp., into turmoil.
Revelations that journalists routinely intercepted the voicemails of public figures, including celebrities, politicians, police, and even crime victims sent shock waves across the British establishment, forcing the closure of the News of the World and scuttling its parent company's multibillion pound (dollar) bid for full control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
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 U.K. 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's testimony.
Still, Murdoch should expect a rough ride.
"He's under more pressure now than he's ever been," Connew said.
Online: Media committee website
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