Saturday, July 23, 2011

James Murdoch sinks deeper amid cries he misled British probe

Saturday, July 23rd 2011, 4:00 AM

James Murdoch answered to British parliament last week, but new claims suggest he was not truthful during the News Corp. probe.
Sang Tan/AP
James Murdoch answered to British parliament last week, but new claims suggest he was not truthful during the News Corp. probe.

News Corp. heir apparent James Murdoch is now in the crosshairs of critics who charge he misled Parliament about Britain's phone-hacking scandal.

The allegations against the 38-year-old Murdoch, long considered the successor to his father Rupert, raised questions about his credibility - and his future.

Murdoch, under questioning this week, said he was unaware the invasions of privacy at the now-shuttered News of the World went beyond a single reporter.

But a pair of former Murdoch top staffers contradicted the media scion, insisting he was informed years ago about an email suggesting the hacking was far more prevalent.

The incriminating missive was uncovered during a lawsuit filed by British soccer association chief Gordon Taylor over alleged hacking of his phone.

The email, which included a transcript of an illegally obtained conversation, seemed to implicate others at the muckraking tabloid.

It was marked "for Neville" - an apparent reference to News of the World chief crime reporter Neville Thurlbeck. Murdoch approved a $1.1 million payout to Taylor in 2008.

"We would like to point out that James Murdoch's recollection of what he was told when agreeing to settle the Gordon Taylor litigation was mistaken," said former legal adviser Tom Crone and ex-editor Colin Myler.

"In fact, we did inform him of the 'for Neville' email, which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor's lawyers."

Labour Party lawmaker Tom Watson demanded an investigation by Scotland Yard to determine if the younger Murdoch told the truth - an odd request, given the agency's past inattention to the scandal.

Scotland Yard chief Paul Stephenson was forced to resign over the investigation.

The Murdoch media empire was nearly buckled by the allegations of phone-hacking and bribes paid to police.

lmcshane@nydailynews.com

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