Fresh evidence adds to pressure on News Corp.
James Murdoch looks to be in the crosshairs again as two letters emerged Tuesday declaring that phone hacking by News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid was carried out with what one described as “the full knowledge and support” of senior managers at the paper.
The revelation of the letters, deemed “devastating” new evidence by the parliamentary committee investigating the scandal, makes it likely that Murdoch, News Corp.’s deputy chief operating officer, will be recalled for additional testimony regarding discrepancies between his version of of events and those of execs at the paper and its publisher, News Corp. U.K. subsid News Intl.
In a letter written four years ago by the News of the World’s disgraced royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, who served a four-month prison sentence for phone hacking in 2007, Goodman claims the practice was widespread and widely discussed at editorial meetings until then-editor Andy Coulson banned further references to it.
The letter, made public by the pols investigating phone hacking, also said that Coulson offered to let Goodman keep his job if he agreed not to implicate the paper when his case was tried. It stated that his own hacking was carried out with “the full knowledge and support” of other senior News of the World journalists, whom he named. These names could not be published because of police investigations.
If true, the allegations not only further embarrass the Murdochs but also Coulson, who was arrested last month. He ankled as director of communications for British Prime Minister David Cameron in January.
Both Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, the ex-News Intl. CEO and News of the World editor who was also arrested in July, have denied any knowledge of phone hacking at the tabloid.
The revelations also raise fresh questions about the judgment of Cameron, who hired Coulson as his communications director following his assurances that he knew nothing about the phone hacking.
In his letter, Goodman wrote: “Tom Crone (the News Intl. lawyer) and the editor promised on many occasions that I could come back to a job at the newspaper if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff in my mitigation plea. I did not, and I expect the paper to honor its promise to me.”
The second letter, written by the British law firm employed by News Intl., Harbottle and Lewis, openly criticized evidence given by Rupert and James Murdoch at last month’s hearing by members of parliament (MPs).
It said it finds it “hard to credit” James Murdoch’s repeated claim that News Intl. “rested on information it had provided as part of their reasons for believing that Goodman was a ‘rogue reporter’ and that phone hacking was not rife at the tabloid.”
News Intl.’s view of Harbottle and Lewis’ role was “self-serving,” the law firm said. Rupert Murdoch’s claim that Harbottle and Lewis was employed “to find out what the hell was going on” was “inaccurate and misleading.”
The law firm added that Murdoch Sr. may have been confused or misinformed about its role. Harbottle and Lewis wrote: “There was absolutely no question of the firm being asked to provide News Intl. with a clean bill of health, which it could deploy years later in wholly different contexts for wholly different purposes.
“The firm was not being asked to provide some sort of ‘good conduct certificate’ which News Intl. could show to Parliament, nor was it being given a general retainer, as Mr. Rupert Murdoch asserted it was, ‘to find out what the hell was going on.’?”
MP Tom Watson, who has campaigned on behalf of phone-hacking victims, said the new evidence was “devastating.”