Murdoch may face more questions

The parliamentary select committee probing phone hacking at News Corp.’s British newspapers will meet Friday to discuss the emerging conflict of evidence between James Murdoch and other former execs at News Intl., the conglom’s U.K. publishing arm

On Thursday, Colin Myler, who was editor of the News of the World when it was shuttered two weeks ago, and the paper’s former legal head Tom Crone accused Murdoch of misleading the committee on July 19 when he and News Corp. topper Rupert Murdoch denied all knowledge of widespread phone hacking at the News of the World.

Prime minister David Cameron has said that James Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp.’s European and Asian biz, “clearly” needs to answer questions in parliament about the matter.

A statement issued by News Corp. said, “James Murdoch stands by his testimony to the select committee.”

Meanwhile, the nascent FBI investigation into whether the alleged phone hacking and police bribery by employees within News Corp. broke any U.S. laws must wait on the results of the Brit probe — prolonging the drama still further.

The BBC is reporting that the FBI plans to contact actor Jude Law following claims his mobile phone was hacked during a visit to the U.S.

It is alleged a story published by the News of the World in 2003 was based on information obtained from his voicemail. If proved, this could lead to charges in the U.S. because his phone would have been operating on a U.S. network.

News Intl. denies the allegations.

Myler and Crone said the evidence Murdoch gave in relation to an out-of-court settlement paid to Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers Assn., and authorized by Murdoch in April 2008, was “mistaken.”

The pair said they had told Murdoch of an email that indicated illegal interception of voicemails was not restricted to one rogue reporter.

The two claim that Murdoch, News Corp’s deputy chief operating officer, was informed of the email — known as the “for Neville” email, because of its link to the paper’s former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck — when he approved the payment.

In a statement, Myler and Crone said: “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.

“We did inform him of the ‘for Neville’ email which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor’s lawyers.”

Interviewed by the BBC, Cameron, whose own close links to the Murdoch camp have come under fire, said: “Clearly James Murdoch has questions to answer in Parliament and I’m sure he will do that.

“And clearly News Intl. has some big issues to deal with and a mess to clear up, that has to be done by the management of that company.”

Meanwhile, Labor MP Chris Bryant, a key campaigner against News Corp. in the scandal, has written to the conglom’s non-executive directors calling for Rupert and James Murdoch to be suspended.

Fellow Labor MP Tom Watson told the Financial Times, “Either Mr. Myler and Mr. Crone are lying, or Mr. Murdoch has misled Parliament. If so, his position is untenable.”

Watson, who has asked police to investigate Myler and Crone’s claim, described the allegation that Murdoch had misled MPs as “the most significant moment of two years of investigation into phone hacking.”

He added that if the statement was accurate, “it shows James Murdoch had knowledge that others were involved in hacking as early as 2008.”

“It shows he failed to act to discipline staff or initiate an internal investigation, which undermines Rupert Murdoch’s evidence to our committee that the company had a zero tolerance to wrongdoing.”The MP went on: “It shows he failed to act to discipline staff or initiate an internal investigation, which undermines Rupert Murdoch’s evidence to our committee that the company had a zero tolerance to wrongdoing.

“More importantly, it shows he not only failed to report a crime to the police but because there was a confidentiality clause involved in the settlement it means that he bought the silence of Gordon Taylor and that could mean he is facing investigation for perverting the course of justice.”

Meanwhile, Sun journo Matt Nixson has been sacked by News Intl.

In a statement, the company said: “News Corp.’s Management and Standards Committee can confirm that News Intl. today terminated the contract of a member of staff in relation to his previous work at the News of the World.

“The MSC is authorized to cooperate fully with all relevant investigations and inquiries in the News of the World phone-hacking case, police payments and all other related issues across News Intl., as well as conducting its own inquiries where appropriate.”

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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