- Associated Press - Thursday, November 10, 2011

LONDON (AP) — James Murdoch insisted Thursday that he had been kept in the dark about the culture of criminality at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, telling a committee of often-skeptical British lawmakers that he had been blindsided by his subordinates.

In more than 2½ of testimony, Mr. Murdoch accused two former lieutenants of misleading both him and parliamentarians over the scope of a phone-hacking scandal that has shaken his father, Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

“Any suspicion of wider-spread wrongdoing, none of these things were mentioned to me,” the junior Mr. Murdoch said, taking largely the same stance he took before the parliamentary committee during testimony in July.

Mr. Murdoch‘s repeated denials that he had seen critical evidence of widespread criminality at his company prompted derisive comments from the lawmakers investigating the scandal.

“You must be the first mafia boss in history who didn’t think he was running a criminal enterprise,” said Labor lawmaker Tom Watson, a strident Murdoch critic.

Mr. Murdoch, stony-faced, called the comment inappropriate.

He laid the blame squarely at the door of the News of the World’s former editor, Colin Myler, and News International’s former legal adviser, Tom Crone, both of whom insist that they briefed Mr. Murdoch as long ago as early 2008 about damning evidence that proved that phone hacking went much further than previously had been acknowledged.

“I believe their testimony was misleading, and I dispute it,” Mr. Murdoch said.

The finger-pointing follows months of drip-drip revelations that undermined Mr. Murdoch‘s credibility.

Mr. Crone and Mr. Myler’s account of events has called Mr. Murdoch‘s credibility into question. Documents published in the months since the younger Mr. Murdoch’s earlier appearance in Parliament — in which he insisted he was not informed of the scale of the scandal — have been particularly damning.

One, written by a senior lawyer, warned Rupert Murdoch’sNews International that there was “overwhelming evidence” that some of its most senior journalists had been involved in illegal practices.

“No documents were shown to me,” the junior Mr. Murdoch said.

Mr. Murdoch responded to questions quickly and confidently — occasionally striking an apologetic tone when questions steered him toward his company’s failure to get to grips with the scandal.

He said that 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.

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