Murdoch may close 'The Sun' if hacking is proved
James Murdoch threw the future of News International into doubt last night by suggesting that the 'Sun' might be closed down if it is dragged into the phone hacking scandal.
Giving evidence to British MPs yesterday, Mr Murdoch, who closed the 'News of the World' in July, said he could not "rule out" closing the 'Sun' or any other publication if it was found to have broken the law. Shares in News Corp, News International's parent company, fell in value after Mr Murdoch gave evidence, though they rallied later.
Mr Murdoch was recalled by the Culture, Media and Sport committee to answer further questions about phone hacking at the 'News of the World' after his previous evidence was contradicted by two former employees.
During an abrasive two-and-a-half-hour interrogation, Mr Murdoch was likened to a "mafia boss" by Tom Watson MP, who suggested he presided over a "criminal empire" with a culture of silence at its heart.
At that point Mr Murdoch appealed to the chairman John Whittingdale to rein in Mr Watson.
Mr Murdoch had been recalled after Tom Crone, the former head of legal affairs at the 'News of the World', and Colin Myler, its last editor, suggested he had misled MPs when he said he did not know until recently that phone hacking went beyond one rogue reporter. Mr Crone and Mr Myler claimed they told Mr Murdoch at a meeting in June 2008 about an email which proved that more than one reporter was involved.
Mr Murdoch refused to budge from his previous position, saying he had not been shown the email at that time or been made aware of the fact that it implicated others.
Mr Watson, the Labour MP who has played a key role in uncovering the phone hacking scandal, was once again the fulcrum of the proceedings.
But after failing to extract a confession from the executive chairman of News International to being party to a cover-up, he resorted to the verbal equivalent of the infamous custard pie attack on Rupert Murdoch at the last hearing.
"You are familiar with the mafia?" Mr Watson asked. "Yes, Mr Watson," came the reply. "Do you know the term 'omerta'?" he went on, referring to the mafia's secret code of silence.
Mr Murdoch did not, so the MP defined it for him as: "A group of people who are bound together by secrecy who together pursue their group's business objectives with no regard for the law, using intimidation, corruption and criminality."
He added: "Would you agree with me that this is an accurate description of News International in the UK?"
Mr Murdoch called the comparison "offensive and not true". Mr Watson retorted: "You must be the only mafia boss in history who did not know he was running a criminal empire." Mr Murdoch replied: "Mr Watson, please. That's inappropriate. Mr chairman ... ?"(© Daily Telegraph, London)