- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 19, 2011

LONDON (AP) - Rupert Murdoch sparred Tuesday with a committee of lawmakers over the phone-hacking scandal that has rocked his global empire, reeling from tough questioning before recovering his composure and rebuffing his interrogators with flashes of his legendary toughness.

The elder Murdoch banged his hands on the table and said the day was the most humble of his life, becoming flustered when committee members peppered with him questions and turning to his son James for some answers.

He recovered later in a tense question-and-answer session with lawmakers, pushing back with firm denials of wrongdoing.

Murdoch, 80, said he was “shocked, appalled and ashamed” at the hacking of the phone of a murdered schoolgirl by his now-shuttered News of the World tabloid. He said he had seen no evidence that victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attack and their relatives were targeted by any of his papers.

Murdoch said he was not responsible for the hacking scandal, and his company was not guilty of willful blindness.

He repeatedly batted away questions about operations at the News of the World by saying he wasn’t really in touch with the tabloid or didn’t know what was going on there.

Murdoch also told the committee that he didn’t believe the FBI had uncovered any evidence of hacking Sept. 11 victims in a recently launched inquiry.

He said he lost sight of News of the World because it is such a small part of his company and spoke to the editor of the paper only around once a month, talking more with the editor of the Sunday Times in Britain and the Wall Street Journal in the U.S.

James Murdoch apologized for the scandal, telling British lawmakers that “these actions do not live up to the standards our company aspires to.”

The younger Murdoch said the company acted as swiftly and transparently as possible. Rupert Murdoch acknowledged, however, that he did not investigate after the Murdochs' former U.K. newspaper chief, Rebekah Brooks, told parliament years ago that the News of the World had paid police officers for information.

Asked by lawmakers why there was no investigation, he said: “I didn’t know of it.”

He says the News of the World “is less than 1 percent” of his News Corp., which employs 53,000 people.

Murdoch also said he was not informed that his company had paid out big sums _ 700,000 pounds ($1.1 million) in one case _ to settle lawsuits by phone hacking victims.

James Murdoch said his father became aware of the settlement “in 2009 after a newspaper report. It was a confidential settlement. “

He said a civil case of that nature and size would be dealt with by the executives in the country involved _ in this case James Murdoch, the head of News Corp.’s European and Asian operations.

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