James Murdoch on Thursday again denied that he misled Parliament when he said he did not know the extent of the practice of phone hacking at News Of The World, claiming that former News International employees gave Parliament testimony that was “not right.”
In his second hearing before Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Murdoch denied testimony by former NOTW legal manager Tom Crone and former editor Colin Myler who alleged Murdoch misled the committee in his July testimony.
“Certainly in the evidence they gave to you in 2011 in regard to my own knowledge, I believe it was inconsistent and not right, and I dispute it vigorously,” Murdoch said, according to the New York Times. “I believe their testimony was misleading and I dispute it.”
Crone and Myler claim that in 2008, when News Corp was settling a phone hacking suit with then-chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association Gordon Taylor,
they informed James Murdoch of a key piece of evidence that implicated others in the hackings, not just the “rogue” reporter and private investigator who were convicted. The evidence was a 2005 document known as the “for Neville” e-mail that contained transcripts of 35 hacked phone messages from Taylor’s phone, and was identified as “the transcript for Neville.” The Guardian identified “Neville” as then-News Of The World reporter Neville Thurlbeck.
News International and Murdoch had claimed that the practice of phone hacking was limited to the “rogue” elements within the paper, though it has since become evident that the practice was endemic. And if Crone and Myler’s allegations are true, it means James Murdoch knew this as far back as 2008, and implies that he too tried to settle the Taylor suit to keep the extent of the hackings out of court.
But Murdoch continued to deny these allegations in the hearing Thursday, saying that “no documents were shown to me or given to me” at a meeting with Myler and Crone in 2008 — the meeting in which they allege they showed Murdoch the “for Neville” e-mail. “The meeting, which I remember quite well, was a short meeting, and I was given at that meeting sufficient information to authorize the increase of the settlement offers that had been made” to Gordon Taylor, he said. “But I was given no more than that.”
In one key exchange in the hearing, The Guardian reports, Labour MP Tom Watson said he met with Neville Thurlbeck before the hearing, and Thurlbeck claims that Crone told him at the time that he did show Murdoch the e-mail. According to Watson, Thurlbeck said he was worried that he would be fired once Murdoch saw the e-mail: “This is not some vague memory, I was absolutely on a knife edge. Tom took it to him. The following week I said ‘did you show him the email?’ He said ‘yes I did’. Now he can’t remember whether he showed it to Mr Murdoch or not.”
Murdoch responded: “I really can’t say what Mr Crone and Mr Thurlbeck may have discussed and happy to see that and deal with that, but my recollection is very clear. I remember what I was told at the time and I was not told at the time.”
Thurlbeck has repeatedly denied knowledge of the phone hackings.