James Murdoch firmly denied that he misled Parliament about the extent of his knowledge of the phone hacking scandal during a lengthy grilling on Thursday.
Murdoch appeared before a parliamentary committee for the second time this year to answer questions about his role in the scandal that has plagued News Corp., his family's company, for months. He insisted that he had not been informed about the widespread criminality at the News of the World newspaper, and said that top editors and lawyers at the company had misled Parliament by testifying that they had made him aware of such evidence as early as 2008.
The nearly three hour session was dominated by clashes between Murdoch and Tom Watson, the Labour MP who has become the leading parliamentary campaigner against phone hacking. In the most electric exchange, Watson compared Murdoch to an underworld crime lord.
"You must be the first mafia boss in history who didn't think he was running a criminal enterprise," he said. Murdoch called the comment "inappropriate" and "offensive."
Other MPs were similarly dubious about Murdoch's claims. One lawmaker told him that, if his testimony was to be believed, he was a "cavalier" chief executive. Another called him deeply "incurious" and said he found it inconceivable that he was as in the dark as he claimed to be.
At the heart of the hearing was the discrepancy between Murdoch's version of events and the one laid out by former News of the World editor Colin Myler and former News International legal director Tom Crone. Both have testified that they explicitly told Murdoch that phone hacking was widespread at the News of the World in 2008. Murdoch has been equally vehement in his denial of this. A flurry of recent revelations has put a dent in his credibility, however.
On Thursday, he said that Myler and Crone had misled Parliament, and that Myler "should have told me" about the scale of criminality at the News of the World.
Murdoch also addressed the potentially looming specter of a criminal investigation at The Sun, another News International tabloid. A top reporter was recently arrested at the paper on charges of bribing police. Murdoch did not rule out shutting down The Sun—an extraordinary thing to do, given that it is the biggest-selling daily in Britain.
For a complete, blow-by-blow recap of the hearing, please read the liveblog below.