LONDON — Nothing rattled James Murdoch. Not being compared to the Mafia boss of a criminal enterprise run on fear and omerta. Not being accused of being willfully blind, shockingly incurious or curiously casual about his corporation's money.
During 2 1/2 hours of forensic, skeptical and even rude questioning from a parliamentary panel Thursday, Murdoch, the 38-year-old deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., never wavered from his original account: that he had learned only recently that phone hacking had been widespread at the company's tabloid News of the World, now defunct.
He said he never misled the committee in earlier testimony in July. And he all but accused two former underlings, whose accounts directly contradicted his, of lying about it.
Much was riding on how Murdoch handled the lawmakers' questioning, including his personal credibility and the health of the News Corp. media empire. The hacking scandal has tarnished the company, forced it to summarily shut down a newspaper, scuttled its $12 billion bid to acquire the satellite giant British Sky Broadcasting, destroyed its symbiotic relationship with Britain's political establishment, and added to the strains between Murdoch and his father, Rupert, the company's chairman.
At least 16 former employees have been arrested, including two former editors of News of the World. (None has yet been charged.) A number of executives, including Les Hinton, publisher of the Wall Street Journal and chief executive of Dow Jones, have resigned.
Afterward, panel chairman John Whittingdale said that having taken all the oral testimony it needed, the committee would now begin preparing its report on the hacking scandal.