James Murdoch was aware of very little going on at News Corp. At least, that’s the impression you’d have gotten by watching his testimony before Parliament earlier this week. Not quite, say two former News International executives, who allege that they told him information in 2008 that clearly suggested phone hacking at the News of the World was quite pervasive.
At that time, Murdoch authorized a settlement of $1.4 million to soccer union leader Gordon Taylor, and he told Parliament he did it without knowing the details of why the settlement was so large. The evidence the execs claim he saw included an e-mail transcript of a hacked conversation, clearly labeled to be sent to one of the paper’s top reporters, which should have set off alarm bells that the shady practices were widespread. Murdoch also said he “did not get involved in any of the negotiations directly”; the execs say the opposite was the case.
Murdoch has issued a statement standing by his parliamentary testimony. But it’s unlikely that will stop the bad PR: The execs who have so far contradicted his testimony did so out of anger at the way he’d blame-shifted onto them; they weren’t the only people Murdoch left looking bad with his plausible deniability shtick (not to mention the hundreds of journalists left without jobs when News of the World closed), and so this might be only round one of recriminations. Murdoch’s troubles aren’t confined to that side of the pond, either: The U.S. Justice Department has begun issuing subpoenas in its own investigation into News Corp.’s alleged payments to British police and whether it sanctioned the hacking of 9/11 victims’ families.
Plus, insult to injury, the Guardian says that “of course” James Murdoch will be played by Hilary Swank in the movie version of the scandal.