Irate Murdoch dismisses ‘mafia boss’ accusation

James Murdoch angrily rejected claims on Thursday that he was like a “mafia boss” and denied misleading British lawmakers about the extent of his knowledge of phone-hacking at the News of the World.

In heated exchanges with MPs who were grilling him for a second time about the scandal, the News International chairperson instead tried to blame the former editor and legal chief of the now-defunct tabloid.

Murdoch (38) was recalled by the parliamentary media committee to explain apparent discrepancies in the evidence he gave during the previous hearing alongside his father, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, in July.

Opposition Labour lawmaker Tom Watson stunned the hearing on Thursday by accusing News International of being bound by a pact of “omerta”, the Italian mafia’s code of silence.

James Murdoch dismissed the comparison as “offensive” but Watson pressed on, saying “Mr. Murdoch, you must be the first mafia boss in history who did not know he was running a criminal enterprise”.

The comment prompted gasps in the packed committee room and Murdoch appeared briefly taken aback before replying: “Mr Watson, please. I think that’s inappropriate”.

‘Smoking gun’
The 168-year-old News of the World was shut down in July after it emerged it had hacked the voicemails of Milly Dowler, a missing British schoolgirl who was later found murdered.

Murdoch fended off repeated questions about accusations by former News of the World editor Colin Myler and legal chief Tom Crone, who said he lied about whether he had seen a “smoking gun” email about the extent of hacking.

He admitted that he was told of the email at a meeting in 2008, which was aimed at deciding a pay-out for hacking victim Gordon Taylor, head of the Professional Footballers’ Association.

But he repeatedly denied actually being shown the so-called “for Neville” message — which was apparently meant for chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck — or realising it indicated hacking was widespread.

“The nature of the ‘for Neville’ email … any suspicion of wider-spread wrongdoing, none of these things were mentioned to me,” he told lawmakers.

He then tried to shift the blame, saying that Myler and Crone had themselves “misled” Parliament when they suggested Murdoch knew about the email’s contents and that they had failed to give him necessary details.

Denials
Watson hit back by saying that he had spoken to Thurlbeck recently and that he too said he believed Murdoch was made aware of the email but Murdoch again denied the claim.

Committee chairperson John Whittingdale said after the hearing that there were “direct contradictions” between Murdoch’s evidence and the accounts of Crone and Myler.

“It’s plain that, the two accounts we’ve heard, one of them can’t be true,” Whittingdale said.

Murdoch repeated his apologies for the scandal.

Damaging new claims in the past week had heaped pressure on the young scion of the Murdoch dynasty, particularly allegations that a private detective hired by the News of the World tracked lawyers of hacking victims.

Murdoch condemned the decision to hire an investigator as “appalling” and said Crone and a second, unnamed, News of the World employee were responsible.

Foam pie
Security was tight for the two hour and 37 minute hearing in a building adjoining the Houses of Parliament, after the Murdochs’ previous appearance was disrupted when a man flung a foam pie into Rupert’s face.

James Murdoch’s position at his father’s US-based News Corporation empire has appeared increasingly shaky and there are doubts over whether he will be re-elected chairperson of pay TV-giant BSkyB at an AGM at the end of the month.

In his first appearance at the committee on July 19, James Murdoch maintained he had believed until last year that hacking was carried out by just one “rogue reporter”, former royal editor Clive Goodman.

Goodman was jailed in 2007 along with private detective Glenn Mulcaire after they admitted hacking into royal aides’ phones after which police closed the hacking probe until January this year when it was revived amid new claims.

After the revelations about Milly Dowler in July, two of Rupert Murdoch’s most trusted executives quit, as well as Britain’s top police officer and one of his deputies following criticism of the original probe. — AFP

Sam Reeves
Sam Reeves
News editor for Malaysia and Singapore at AFP
Advertisting

Mabuza’s ‘distant relative’ scored big

Eskom’s woes are often because of boiler problems at its power plants. R50-billion has been set aside to fix them, but some of the contracts are going to questionable entities

ANC faction gunning for Gordhan

The ambush will take place at an NEC meeting about Eskom. But the real target is Cyril Ramaphosa

What the law could clarify this year

Lawfare: Major developments are on the cards where law and politics meet, including the first amendment to South Africa’s Bill of Rights

The secret ‘Warmonger’ at the SSA

A listening device acquired by the agency is at the centre of an alleged R600-million fraud operation
Advertising

Press Releases

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Is your tertiary institution is accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Is your tertiary institution accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

VUT chancellor, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, dies

The university conferred the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa on Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi for his outstanding leadership contributions to maths and science education development.

Innovate4AMR now in second year

SA's Team pill-Alert aims to tackle antimicrobial resistance by implementing their strategic intervention that ensures patients comply with treatment.

Medical students present solution in Geneva

Kapil Narain and Mohamed Hoosen Suleman were selected to present their strategic intervention to tackle antimicrobial resistance to an international panel of experts.