The Murdochs’ evasive evidence to the House of Commons media select committee came to haunt them on Friday when two former senior executives of the defunct News of the World (NoW) accused James Murdoch of misleading MPs over his knowledge of the scale of phone hacking at the newspaper.
The development sparked calls for police investigation into the disputed evidence and Prime Minister David Cameron said that Mr Murdoch had "got questions to answer’’ in the light of the new claims.
"Clearly James Murdoch has got questions to answer in Parliament and I'm sure he will do that, " he said.
Chairman of the committee John Whittingdale said it would be asking Mr. Murdoch to ``clarify’’. "We will be asking James Murdoch to respond and ask him to clarify,’’ he said while another member of the committee, Labour’s Tom Watson asked police to look into the matter.
At the heart of the row is Mr Murdoch’s claim that as far as he knew the hacking was confined to only one "rogue’’ reporter-the paper’s royal correspondent Clive Goodman who was jailed in 2007.
In his testimony to the committee on Tuesday, he insisted that was not told about any other instance of hacking. He further claimed that when he authorised a payment of £700,000 to a victim of phone hacking in 2008 he was ``not aware’’ of an internal email showing that the practice was more widespread.
The email, marked "for Neville’’ , was sent to NoW’s chief reporter Neville Thurleback and it suggested that use of illegal practices at the paper went beyond one ``rogue’’ journalist. Mr. Murdoch told MPs that he was never told about what has come to be known as the "smoking gun email’’.
Challenging Mr. Murdoch’s claim, NoW’s former editor Colin Myler and the paper’s head of legal affairs at the time Tom Crone said they did tell him about the email and that his recollection of the £700,000 out-of-court settlement with GordonTaylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association was "mistaken’’.
In a joint statement, they said: "Just by way of clarification relating to Tuesday's CMS select committee hearing, we would like to point out that James Murdoch's recollection of what he was told when agreeing to settle the Gordon Taylor litigation was mistaken. In fact, we did inform him of the 'for Neville' email which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor's lawyers."
A statement from News International, however, said:``James Murdoch stands by his testimony to the select committee.’’