James Murdoch received email warning of phone hacking ‘nightmare scenario’

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News Corp. Deputy Chief Operating Officer James Murdoch received an email in June 2008 that described the company’s tenuous legal position because of the widespread nature of phone hacking by operatives of its now-defunct News of the World tabloid.

The internal emails, which were released Tuesday by the British Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee, are important because they appear to belie Murdoch’s statements to Parliament that he was unaware that illegal conduct involved numerous News of the World reporters as well as a private investigator hired by the tabloid.

Murdoch consistently has insisted to Parliament that he did not learn until late 2010 of the widespread nature of the phone hacking. However, the emails lay out an exchange more than two years earlier between Murdoch, the 38-year-old son of media baron Rupert Murdoch, and Colin Myler, the former editor of the tabloid.

‘Unfortunately it is as bad as we feared,’ Myler wrote to James Murdoch in a June 7, 2008, email.


The correspondence included another email, this one from the paper’s in-house lawyer, which said News International -- the British newspaper unit of News Corp. -- would have to pay a soccer league executive Gordon Taylor about $1 million to settle invasion of privacy charges. The second email warned of a ‘nightmare scenario’ because a second soccer league official, Joanne Armstrong, also had been targeted in the phone hacking.

Murdoch, in a separate letter submitted to Parliament this week, stated that he only became aware of the email chain last week. He noted that the 2008 emails had been sent to him on a Saturday afternoon, and that he failed to fully read them.

‘I typically received emails on my BlackBerry on weekends. I am confident that I did not review the full email chain at the time or afterwards,’ Murdoch wrote to the head of the Parliament committee. ‘I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm my past testimony that I was not aware of evidence that either pointed to widespread wrongdoing or indicated that further investigation was necessary.’

News Corp. on Tuesday declined further comment.


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James Murdoch insists he was kept in the dark about phone hacking

-- Meg James