James Murdoch denies misleading MPs

Former News International executive chairman James Murdoch told MPs in a letter released today that he accepted his share of the blame for not uncovering phone hacking at the News of the World sooner.

Former News International executive chairman James Murdoch told MPs in a letter released today that he accepted his share of the blame for not uncovering phone hacking at the News of the World sooner.

But he denied he had misled Parliament over the scandal.

He said in the letter to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee: “I did not know about, nor did I try to hide, wrongdoing.

“Whilst I accept my share of responsibility for not uncovering wrongdoing sooner, I did not mislead Parliament and the evidence does not support any other conclusion.”

Mr Murdoch, who announced he was stepping down as executive chairman last month, said it was not because he had known about alleged criminal wrongdoing at the now defunct Sunday tabloid but because he wanted to devote himself to other roles at parent company News Corporation.

He denied he had turned a “blind eye” to wrongdoing and promised to be vigilant in the future.

He went on: “Clearly with the benefit of hindsight, I acknowledge that wrongdoing should have been uncovered earlier.

“I could have asked more questions, requested more documents and taken a more challenging and sceptical view of what I was told, and I will do so in the future.

“I have sought to explain, however, that it was reasonable for me to rely on my senior executives to inform me of what I needed to know. In this case, the approach fell short.

“But it is important to know that I did not turn a blind eye. I was given very strong assurances about investigations recently done, and these assurances were echoed by the Metropolitan Police.”

He said his father Rupert Murdoch's company had already made ``significant efforts'' to settle civil cases brought by victims of phone hacking by compensating and apologising to them.

“I reiterate my personal apology to those who had their privacy invaded,” he added.

“In my evidence submitted to the Committee I expressed my shock and anger at the widespread wrongdoing that has emerged and my frustration that I was not made aware of it sooner, all of which is a matter of great and real regret to me.”

Mr Murdoch, who outlined the various roles he had held in the business since joining in 1997, said he was never “intimately involved” with the workings of the News of the World or any of the other newspapers published by News International.

He also referred to the now notorious ``For Neville'' email within the seven-page letter, repeating he was not aware of the message which blew apart the company's stance that hacking was the fault of a single rogue reporter - former royal correspondent Clive Goodman, who was paying private investigator Glenn Mulcaire to carry it out.

Mr Murdoch said he understood it was a “historic, isolated issue that had resulted in two people going to jail, and the editor at the time resigning”.

“I had no reason to believe it was anything other than a settled matter as a result of the prosecutions and one from which the company had moved on, having put a new editor at the helm.”

He added: “I have tried to make clear that I am not someone who tolerates wrongdoing and, as I said to you in my evidence in July 2011, illegal behaviour has no place in the company.”

Mr Murdoch's departure from leading the UK newspaper arm of his family's empire was widely seen as a way of distancing him from the scandal.

He had been noticeably absent at Mr Murdoch snr’s launch of the new Sunday publication of The Sun days before the announcement.

News Corporation said it would allow him to focus on expanding the company’s international TV businesses.

Now based at the company’s headquarters in New York, he remains News Corporation deputy chief operating officer and keeps responsibility for BSkyB.

Mr Murdoch also referred to another email, which he famously claimed not to have fully read during his evidence before the Committee.

In an email dated Saturday June 7 2008, the News of the World’s then editor Colin Myler requested a meeting with Mr Murdoch to discuss the case being brought against the paper by Professional Footballers Association chief executive Gordon Taylor over claims reporters had eavesdropped on his messages.

In the email, he also warned Mr Murdoch that phone hacking was “rife” at the paper, adding: “Unfortunately, it is as bad as we feared.”

Mr Murdoch said in the letter: “It is clear to me that the email chain has been widely misreported and misunderstood, as it was not, in any way, a warning by Mr Myler or (former legal chief) Mr Crone that voicemail interception was widespread.”

Mr Murdoch said he thought the email was specifically about the claim made by Mr Taylor, and the quote about it being “as bad as we feared” related to the amount of money it might take to settle the case.

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