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James Murdoch To Face MP Again Over Phone Hacking
Originally published on Thu November 10, 2011 2:38 am
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Let's hear now about the latest twist in the scandal at News Corp that erupted earlier this year. News Corp newspapers, controlled by Rupert Murdoch and members of his family, are being investigated over charges of phone hacking and police bribery. This morning in London, top News Corp executive James Murdoch, one of the Rupert Murdoch's sons, went before members of parliament and answered questions about his previous testimony concerning the scandal. NPR's David Folkenflik is in London following the proceedings. Good morning, David.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: And the Murdoch family had hoped that public attention about this scandal would ebb, but it hasn't. Over the past week there have been new revelations about illegal activity. Tell us about them first.
FOLKENFLIK: Well, you're not wrong, Renee. There have been a number of developments that have reminded people here in the U.K. about why this scandal was such a big deal over the summer and this fall. A senior journalist was just arrested last week at the Sun tabloid, a sister tabloid. Now, as you may recall, the Murdochs shut down the News of the World tabloid, the Sunday paper that had been at the heart of the scandal. They had hoped to quarantine it. This journalist was arrested for suspicion of bribing police. That suggests this scandal could spread to this other important Murdoch title.
In addition, two lawyers for News Corp, one a former internal lawyer, one a former outside solicitor, have essentially contradicted major parts of testimony from Mr. James Murdoch, who as you point out is not only Rupert Murdoch's son but the number three guy in News Corp itself. The internal attorney said that he now believes that Murdoch did know of a smoking gun three years ago. That's two years before James Murdoch acknowledges having understood that the problem of phone hacking, police bribery, was endemic at News of the World.
And in addition, there was revelation that private investigators had been hired for over a year to follow the two lead attorneys representing hacking victims against News Corp's British arm. It smacks of seemingly intimidation and it lasted until apparently this past May, which suggests this occurred under Mr. Murdoch's own leadership at the British News Corp arm.
MONTAGNE: And this morning, before a parliamentary committee, how did James Murdoch address these allegations?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, he stuck to his guns, in a sense. He struck a contrite tone, as he had before, echoing his father's declaration about this being a humble time for News Corp and News International here in Britain. He apologized also for the company's aggressive defense of itself, particularly in light, in 2009, of the Guardian newspaper's leading reporting showing that there had been a pattern, that it had been more widespread than previously acknowledged. He said that the company was wrong to suggest that this was coverage or allegations made out of commercial or ideological opposition to News Corp's titles here in Britain, and they really had gone after their critics at the Guardian and the New York Times in particular.
He, however, contradicted Tom Crone, his former inside attorney, and the accounts of former News of the World editor Colin Myler, who had said that they had informed him of a smoking gun memo some years earlier, 2008, in order to make a major and unprecedented size(ph) settlement. He then described as inappropriate and wrong the comparisons that a leading critic in parliament, Tom Watson, made before the committee this morning. He compared News Corp's British arm to the Mafia and said that there had been an omerta culture here.
MONTAGNE: Well, in 10 seconds or less, what was the tone in the hearing room in parliament?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, he was trying to avoid being - describing himself as incompetent or colluding in criminality, and they didn't seem to pin him down precisely in the way that perhaps they had hoped.
MONTAGNE: David, thanks very much.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
MONTAGNE: That's NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik speaking to us from London, where James Murdoch is being questioned by members of parliament. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.