Phone-hacking: James Murdoch grilled by Parliament again; Tom Watson compares News Corp. to the ‘mafia’

Dylan Stableford
The Cutline

James Murdoch appeared before a select committee of Parliament on Thursday to answer more questions about phone hacking at News International.

The session, originally scheduled to last an hour, stretched to more than two-and-a-half hours, as committee members--including MP Tom Watson, a well-known Murdoch critic--grilled the News International chairman and News Corp. board member about what he and other members of the company knew.

"Are you familiar with the word 'mafia'?" Watson asked Murdoch.

"Yes, Mr. Watson," Murdoch replied.

"Have you ever heard the term 'omerta,' a mafia term they use for the code of silence?" Watson asked.

"I'm not an aficionado on such things," Murdoch said, pouring himself a glass of water.

"Would you agree it means a group of people bound together by secrecy, who together pursue that group's business objectives with no regard for the law, using intimidation and corruption and general criminality?" Watson asked.

"Again, I'm not familiar with the term particularly," Murdoch said.

"Would you agree with me that this is an accurate description of News International?" Watson continued.

"Absolutely not. I think, frankly, that's offensive and not true," Murdoch said.

Later, Murdoch addressed the revelations that a former Metropolitan police officer had been paid to spy on roughly 90 people, including Prince William.

"It is appalling," he said. "It is something I would never condone, the company should never condone, something that should never have happened and was shocking when I found out . . .  it is not something that has a place in the way that we operate."

Murdoch was also asked directly if the company would consider shutting down other newspapers--as it did with News of the World--should investigators find evidence that phone-hacking was widespread.

"I think it's important not to prejudge the outcome of any of the investigations," Murdoch said. "[But] I don't think we can rule out any corporate reaction to behavior or wrongdoing."

You can watch video of the entire session over at CSPAN.

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