In new testimony, James Murdoch blames underlings

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LONDON (AP) - He didn’t see. He wasn’t told. He didn’t know.

Called back to Britain’s Parliament after former News Corp. employees challenged his credibility, senior executive James Murdoch insisted he’d been kept in the dark about widespread phone hacking at his now-defunct News of the World tabloid, blaming two of his senior lieutenants for failing to warn him of the paper’s culture of criminality.

“None of these things were mentioned to me,” he told an often-skeptical House of Commons’ media committee.

Over more than two-and-a-half hours of questioning, Murdoch stuck to that line.

“It was not shown to me,” he said of an explosive email which implicated one of his top reporters in phone hacking.

“It didn’t occur to me to probe further,” he said when quizzed about the legal advice his subordinates had supplied him.

“It didn’t seem necessary for me to ask for a copy,” he said of a seven-page document warning of overwhelming evidence of illegal behavior at his company.

Speaking quickly and confidently, Murdoch laid the blame at the door of former News of the World Editor Colin Myler and former in-house lawyer Tom Crone, both of whom resigned soon after the scandal broke earlier this year. Over the past few months, the pair have challenged the credibility of their former boss, accusing the 38-year-old News Corp. executive of not telling the truth when he claimed they never told him about the incriminating email back in 2008.

Murdoch made one important concession to their version of events _ acknowledging that he’d been briefed on the incriminating email back in 2008 _ but insisted that its importance was kept from him.

“What never happened is Mr. Crone and Mr. Myler showing me the relevant evidence, explaining to me the relevant evidence _ and its relevance _ or talking about wider spread criminality,” Murdoch said. “That simply did not happen.”

In a statement, Crone attacked Murdoch’s testimony, insisting that he hadn’t misled lawmakers.

“At best, his evidence on the matter was disingenuous,” he said of Murdoch’s comments. He did not immediately return calls seeking further comment.

Myler’s telephone number is unlisted, and a letter sent to him more than a month ago has gone unanswered.

Murdoch did find support for his story after his testimony finished. Neville Thurlbeck, a former chief reporter at the paper who was arrested on suspicion of phone hacking and later released, told Channel 4 News that he had compiled a dossier of evidence, including audio recordings, that would exonerate himself and support Murdoch’s version of events.

“It will back up his claim that he has been seriously misled by senior executives on the News of the World,” Thurlbeck said.

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