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James Murdoch defends record at inquiry

LONDON -- James Murdoch defended his record at the head of his father's scandal-tarred British newspaper unit before a U.K. inquiry yesterday, saying subordinates prevented him from making a clean sweep at the News of the World, the now-defunct tabloid.

Speaking under oath at Lord Justice Brian Leveson's inquiry into media ethics, Murdoch repeated allegations that the tabloid's then-editor, Colin Myler, and the company's former in-house lawyer, Tom Crone, misled him about the scale of illegal behavior at the newspaper.

Leveson asked: "Can you think of a reason why Mr. Myler or Mr. Crone should keep this information from you? Was your relationship with them such that they may think: 'Well we needn't bother him with that' or 'We better keep it from it because he'll ask to cut out the cancer'?"

"That must be it," Murdoch said. "I would say: 'Cut out the cancer,' and there was some desire to not do that."

Murdoch, 39, said that at the time he had no reason to doubt his subordinates when he took over at News International, publisher of the News of the World, saying he had repeatedly been told nothing was amiss.

"I was given assurances by them, which proved to be wrong," he said.

Revelations that News of the World reporters had hacked into the phones of hundreds of high-profile people, including a teenage murder victim, pushed Murdoch's father, Rupert, to close the 168-year-old newspaper, triggered three police investigations, led to more than 100 lawsuits, and launched the inquiry into media practices.

James Murdoch has found himself sucked into the center of a scandal, with critics saying he should have found out about the wrongdoing once he took over at News International in December 2007.

The uproar over illegal behavior at the News of the World has scuttled Murdoch's multibillion-dollar bid for full control of satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC.

Murdoch's relationship with politicians also came under scrutiny yesterday.

The American-born News Corp. executive revealed that he'd told Conservative leader David Cameron at a meeting at the George club in London on Sept. 10, 2009, that the newspaper The Sun would endorse the Tories' election bid.

The top-selling paper's endorsement of the Conservatives was a blow to the Labour Party, and critics claim it helped secure Tory approval for the potentially lucrative BSkyB bid after they won the election in 2010. Cameron is now prime minister. Murdoch denied the charge yesterday. "I would never have made that kind of a crass calculation," he said.

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