Appearing before Parliament for a second time, News Corp. Deputy Chief Operating Officer James Murdoch denied on Thursday that he misled Parliament about the phone hacking scandal in is July testimony.
Fearing it had been lied to, the committee members pressured Murdoch for nearly three hours about what role he played in internal investigations and monetary settlements, seeking to find out whether Murdoch was not being honest about what he knew. One MP went so far as to compare the Murdoch family to the Italian mafia.
Murdoch, son of News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, not only denied misleading Parliament during his prior testimony, but he blamed his former employees for giving the committee “inconsistent” evidence.
Murdoch blamed the very employees, Tom Crone and Colin Myler, who said Murdoch misled the committee.
“I believe their testimony was misleading and I dispute it,” Murdoch said.
Much of the questioning revolved around the “for Neville” e-mail, which indicated hacking at the News Corp.-owned News of the World tabloid was more widespread than one “rogue” reporter. (For a full video of the event, CSPAN has you covered).
Murdoch said he was told about the e-mail, but not that it included evidence of extensive phone hacking.
Tom Watson, the parliamentarian thorn in the Murdoch side, said he had met with Neville Thurlbeck, the “Neville” of the e-mail. Thurlbeck said Crone informed him he would have to tell Murdoch about the e-mail.
As Murdoch insisted he had learned all of these details recently – otherwise he would have admitted lying to Parliament — Watson then asked him if he was familiar with the mafia and its “omerta,” the code of silence.
“I frankly think that’s offensive, and it’s not true,” Murdoch replied.
Though Watson was the toughest of the questioners, his fellow committee members were also more aggressive and less hospitable than the last go-round.
On that occasion, James appeared alongside Rupert, who said it was the most humble day of his life.
Murdoch repeated that contrition on Thursday, but he also spent a few hours pushing back against a tough line of questioning.
The continuation of the hacking scandal and constant waves of new revelations have endangered the younger Murdoch’s status at News Corp..
Already accused of misleading Parliament by Crone and Myler, new evidence this week suggested senior officials at News International, News Corp.’s U.K. publishing division, were more aware of the extent of hacking than News Corp. has let on.
As part of his role in the company, Murdoch is the executive chairman of News International, and thus this trove of internal documents has raised further doubts about his candor.
Murdoch sought to dispel any doubts on Thursday, though if the reaction of the papers in England is any indication, he has yet to succeed.