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James Murdoch contradicted by his ex-legal manager
Question of the Day
LONDON (AP) — James Murdoch was under pressure Friday over claims he misled lawmakers about Britain’s phone hacking scandal, as a lawmaker called for a police investigation and Prime Minister David Cameron insisted the media scion had “questions to answer” about what he knew and when he knew it.
Two former top staffers in the Murdoch media empire released a statement late Thursday saying they told James Murdoch years ago about an email that suggested wrongdoing at the News of the World tabloid was more widespread than the company let on — contradicting a claim by Rupert Murdoch’s son that he was not aware of evidence the eavesdropping went beyond a jailed rogue reporter.
It’s also the first sign that Murdoch executives are starting to turn against the empire in the wake of a scandal that has already cost it one of its British tabloids, two top executives and a $12 billion-dollar bid for control of lucrative satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting.
Tom Watson, a legislator from the opposition Labour Party, called for Scotland Yard to look into the allegation and said it “marks a major step forward in getting to the facts of this case.”
“If their version of events is accurate, it doesn’t just mean that Parliament has been misled, it means police have another investigation on their hands,” Watson told the BBC.
News International, News Corp.’s British newspaper arm, said James Murdoch stood by his statement Tuesday to the parliamentary committee investigating the phone-hacking scandal, which exploded with revelations journalists at the News of the World tabloid hacked the phone of a 13-year-old murder victim while police were still searching for her and broadened to include claims reporters paid police for information.
That set off a firestorm which hit at the highest reaches of British society. It forced Rupert Murdoch to shutter News of the World, prompting a spate of high-profile resignations and departures at News Corp. and delivering the 80-year-old media baron and his son to be grilled before lawmakers.
James Murdoch, in his testimony on Tuesday, batted away claims he knew the full extent of the illegal espionage at the News of the World when he approved a 700,000 pound ($1.1 million) payout in 2008 to soccer players’ association chief Gordon Taylor, one of the phone hacking victims.
News International had long maintained that the eavesdropping was limited to a single rogue reporter, Clive Goodman, and the private investigator he was working with to break into voice mails of members of the royal household.
But an email uncovered during legal proceedings seemed to cast doubt on that claim. It contained a transcript of an illegally obtained conversation, drawn up by a junior reporter and marked “for Neville” — an apparent reference to the News of the World’s chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck.
Because it seemed to implicate others in the hacking, the email had the potential to blow a hole through News International’s fiercely held contention that one reporter alone had engaged in hacking. If James Murdoch knew about the email — and was aware of its implication — it would lend weight to the suggestion he’d approved the payoff in an effort to bury the scandal.
James Murdoch told lawmakers he was not aware of the email at the time, but former legal adviser Tom Crone and ex-editor Colin Myler contradicted him.
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