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Murdoch’s solo performance was far less dramatic than the July 19 hearing at which his 80-year-old father Rupert Murdoch repeatedly banged the table to back his points. Although the navy-suited James Murdoch showed flashes of annoyance _ occasionally starting his answers with “as I testified earlier” or “as I answered earlier” _ he kept his cool, even when Labour lawmaker Tom Watson described him as a bumbling crime lord.

“You must be the first mafia boss in history who doesn’t know he’s at the head of a criminal enterprise,” Watson said in what sounded like a carefully crafted sound bite.

Murdoch, stony-faced, dismissed the comment as inappropriate.

He struck an apologetic tone when questions steered him toward his company’s failure to get to grips with the scandal. He said executives at the company had given assurances, and that the company “relied on those assurances for too long.”

“I’m sorry for that,” he said.

He also apologized for the use of a private investigator to tail the lawyers of phone hacking victims, calling the practice “appalling.”

James Murdoch runs News Corp.’s European and Asian holdings and remains tipped to succeed his father at the helm of the global media conglomerate. Thursday’s appearance was mandated by lawmakers investigating the industrial-scale espionage at the News of the World, the exposure of which has already forced the paper’s closure and scuttled a multibillion pound (dollar) bid for full control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

More than a dozen journalists at News International, News Corp.’s British newspaper subsidiary, have been arrested, and several executives, including The Wall Street Journal’s publisher, Les Hinton, have resigned.

Although the media committee’s investigation isn’t as serious as the ongoing police investigation _ its recommendations are nonbinding _ Murdoch still needed to put on a strong show. Investors have become increasingly restive as the scandal continues to spread, and analysts say Murdoch’s position as heir apparent to his father’s company is under threat.

Paul Connew, a media consultant and former tabloid editor, said he believed Murdoch had given a mixed performance.

“Polished to a certain extent, but again suffering from the amnesia factor,” he said.

The media committee wouldn’t be calling Myler or Crone back for more testimony, Chairman John Whittingdale told reporters after the hearing. He said the committee’s lawmakers had already heard from the pair and would now be weighing whose version of events to believe.

“It is plain that the two accounts we’ve heard, one of them cannot be true,” he said.

Connew warned that even if Murdoch’s reputation isn’t damaged by the report, he would not be home free. A judge-led inquiry into Britain’s media could call him back to the U.K. for more questioning. And detectives could dredge up more damaging revelations.

Lawmakers suggested as much Thursday, with one asking whether Murdoch was aware of any phone hacking at The Sun, the News of the World’s sister paper and currently Britain’s biggest selling daily.

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