James Murdoch expresses regret but defends himself before Parliament
News Corp. Deputy Chief Operating Officer James Murdoch told Britain's Parliament on Thursday that he wishes the company had been more aggressive about investigating allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World tabloid.
"Things went wrong at News of the World," Murdoch said. "If I knew then what I knew today … the company would have acted differently ... to sort this out and put it out,” Murdoch told Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.
However, Murdoch said he did not mislead Parliament about what he knew about the suspected wrongdoing at the now-closed tabloid newspaper when he was questioned by the committee in July.
"I have testified to you consistently about my knowledge of widespread phone hacking," Murdoch told Parliament member Tom Watson, who grilled the executive about his handling of the matter. Watson at one point compared News of the World to the mafia and Murdoch to a mafia boss, which Murdoch said he found "offensive."
Wearing a blue suit with a white shirt and green tie and a poppy lapel pin in remembrance of military veterans, Murdoch downplayed his own knowledge of what now appears to be a culture of phone hacking by the News of the World.
"I don't accept that at all," Murdoch said when asked to comment on why two former News International executives -- News of the World editor Colin Myler and legal counsel Tom Crone -- have disputed his account.
The committee has been probing the ethics scandal that brought down the News of the World and has given a black eye to the global media conglomerate. Last month, News Corp. paid almost $5 million in a settlement with the family of Milly Dowler, a slain teenage girl whose cellphone was hacked by the tabloid when she was still missing. Last week, the company launched a voluntary settlement program for other phone-hacking victims.
In his appearance, Murdoch kept stressing that his conversations with News of the World staffers related primarily to settlement talks with Gordon Taylor, the head of Britain's Professional Footballer's Assn.
The scandal has taken center stage in Britain. Both Sky News and the BBC are carrying live coverage of the hearings as is C-SPAN2 and Bloomberg Television in the United States.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: A protester wearing a mask representing James Murdoch, son of News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch, poses Thursday with a mock-up of a newspaper outside Parliament. Credit: Ben Stansall / AFP/Getty Images