James Murdoch is now in public disagreement with two of his former top dogs, who each told parliament that he was aware that phone hacking was perpetrated by more than just the “rogue reporter” News International originally claimed.
The testimony given by ex News International legal manager Tom Crone and former News Of The World editor Colin Myler at Tuesday’s culture, media and sport select committee inquiry (video) appeared to contradict Murdoch’s assertion, at a previous hearing, that, at the time News International made a big payment to settle a case with hacking victim Gordon Taylor, he was only aware of one implicated reporter.
They said it was “absolutely inconceivable” Murdoch did not know because he had been shown an email alerting to more than one case. But, a few hours after their testimony on Tuesday, News International issued a statement calling the Crone and Myler testimony itself “unclear and contradictory”. In it, James Murdoch says…
“My recollection of the meeting regarding the Gordon Taylor settlement is absolutely clear and consistent. I stand by my testimony, which is an accurate account of events.
“I was told by Mr Crone and Mr Myler when we met, in that short meeting, that the civil litigation related to the interception of Mr Taylor’s voicemails to which Mulcaire had pleaded guilty the previous year. I was informed, for the first time, that there was evidence that Mulcaire had carried out this interception on behalf of the News of the World. It was for this reason alone that Mr Crone and Mr Myler recommended settlement. It was in this context that the evidence was discussed. They did not show me the email, nor did they refer to Neville Thurlbeck.
“Neither Mr Myler nor Mr Crone told me that wrongdoing extended beyond Mr Goodman or Mr Mulcaire.
“As I said in my testimony, there was nothing discussed in the meeting that led me to believe that a further investigation was necessary.”
The Crone and Myler testimony had already made it more likely Murdoch would be recalled to clarify the matter. Now it is obvious that, when he is recalled, he will be sticking to his guns. A reappearance would allow James to answer questions without having to step in to cover the basics for his father, but he will have to work hard to convince the committee where truth lays, after being hung out by his former execs.
Murdoch is News Corp.’s deputy COO as well as chairman and and CEO of News Corp.’s international operations.
Update: Michael Wolff, on BBC Newsnight, said James Murdoch is in “career-ending trouble, his credibility has been virtually destroyed, it is over for him” because the perception is of “a dissembler, a misrepresenter, a liar”.
But Donald Yackman of News Corp.’s ninth largest investor Yacktman Asset Management, speaking on the programme, was calmer, saying News Corp remains a good long-term investment and suggesting Rupert and Chase Carey were more important at News Corp. (NSDQ: NWS) Wolff disputed Yacktman’s assessment strongly, arguing: “You are under absolutely water” – an assertion the investor angrily rejected. “Your credibility has just been destroyed,” Yacktman retorted, startled.
Louise Mensch MP, a select committee member, said its job was to investigate dispassionately. To which Wolff told her, somewhat passionately, that the committee’s investigation had been poor. “I suggest that all of you people spend a little semester at an American law school,” he said.
“I wrote a very flattering biography, I am not in any way a Murdoch antagonist,” Wolff said, to the reply of a wry smile from Mensch.