At another parliamentary appearance on Thursday, James Murdoch's vehement denial of misleading lawmakers was followed by a suggestion that News Corp. is willing to scale back its British newspaper business even more.. The latest phone hacking hearing was scheduled to last 60 minutes but ended up lasting over two and a half hours, giving probing members of Parliament plenty of time to smack Murdoch with serious questions about the scandal. For the first hour or so, the MPs focused on allegations from News Corp. employees Colin Myler and Tom Crone that Murdoch knew about widespread phone hacking at the company's newspapers way back 2008, despite having told Parliament otherwise this July. Eventually, the conversation shifted to the broader topic of how News Corp. is addressing its corporate corruption problem, but not before Labour MP Tom Watson, News Corp.'s biggest enemy lately, cracked a joke about the News Corp. mafia. All things considered, James Murdoch seems to have survived the toughest moments of the grilling. And he didn't even have to dodge a shaving cream pie!
The Crone and Myler moment. If you've been following the News Corp. scandal, you're probably familiar with the "For Neville (Thurlbeck)" email that could be the smoking gun that condemns Murdoch. After Murdoch denied that he'd seen the email, which goes into detail about phone hacking practices, Crone and Myler contradicted their former boss and accused him of lying to Parliament. Murdoch has been steadfast in standing by his original denial and he reiterated that point on Thursday. The Guardian transcribes Murdoch's response:
Mr Watson, 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.
Thus, the he-said-they-said finger-pointing fiasco will continue.
The Sun moment. Towards the end of the hearing, Labour MP Steve Rotheram pushed James Murdoch into a corner over the latest arrest of a phone-hacking journalist at News Corp.'s remaining British tabloid, The Sun. Rotheram forced Murdoch into revealing whether or not he would be willing to shut down The Sun as he had News of the World in order to contain the still ballooning crisis. The Guardian quotes again:
SR: If it's revealed that The Sun does appear in the Mulcaire file, will you close the paper like you did the News of the World
JM: I think it's important not to prejudge the outcome of any of the investigations. … I don't think we can rule [out] any corporate reaction to behaviour or wrongdoing.
Should The Sun close, the darling of Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper division will have been destroyed by the phone hacking scandal.
The mafia moment. In an otherwise tame hearing, Tom Watson produced a gasp or two when he compared the Murdoch family to the Mafia. This BBC report speaks for itself:
Mr Watson asked if he was familiar with the code of "omerta" - which he characterised as "a group of people bound together by secrecy who together pursue their group's business objectives with no regard for the law" and suggested that was "an accurate description of News International in the UK".
Mr Murdoch replied: "Absolutely not. I frankly think that is offensive and that's not true."
We're guessing the internet is already working on some Murdoch mafia memes.