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August 17, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Now, even Rupert Murdoch’s own lawyers are accusing him and other executives of News Corp and its British subsidiary News International (NI) of making misleading statements about the U.K. telephone hacking scandal that has seemingly undermined the media conglomerate. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last month Murdoch had asserted that NI had hired a top London law firm, Harbottle & Lewis, to find out “what the hell was going on” at the company’s London tabloid, News of the World, and that it had found no evidence that senior editors and executives at the paper were ever aware that telephone hacking had been carried out by anyone other than a “rogue reporter” at the newspaper, Clive Goodman. Murdoch’s son James had also told a parliamentary committee last month that NI had relied on the Harbottle & Lewis report in issuing its now-abandoned defense that only a single reporter had engaged in telephone hacking. But in a statement released on Tuesday, the law firm maintained that in 2007 it had been asked to examine 300 emails in connection with Goodman’s wrongful dismissal claim — a very limited probe. “The retainer was expressly limited to the context of Mr. Goodman’s employment dispute,” it said. “There was absolutely no question of the firm being asked to provide News International with a clean bill of health which it could deploy years later in wholly different contexts for wholly different purposes.” That assertion was backed by Jon Chapman, NI’s former legal affairs director, who said that the law firm’s “email review was never intended to be general internal inquiry or investigation into the issue of voicemail interception at [News of the World]. To characterize and hold it out as such now… seems to be very misleading.” Meanwhile, James Murdoch has backed away from his claim that he authorized a payment of about $1 million to settle a phone-hacking claim by Gordon Taylor, former head of the Professional Footballers Association, because it would have cost the company more to defend itself in court. However, in a statement released on Tuesday Murdoch said that he was not aware that the settlement was related to keeping Taylor’s evidence secret. He said that he has now “been informed that confidentiality was a factor in determining the amount of the settlement payment.”