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For James Murdoch, the buck stops somewhere else

November 11, 2011 |  7:01 am

James Murdoch

It's nice to know that in Britain, tradition is still important.

And I don't mean the royal family.

No, I'm talking about the proud tradition of blaming others when scandal erupts.

Its latest practitioner is James Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch. As The Times reported:

Assured, aloof and at times combative, News Corp. scion James Murdoch insisted to Parliament members that he had been kept in the dark as evidence mounted that corruption was widespread at one of his company's British newspapers.

The 38-year-old News Corp. deputy chief operating officer was grilled for 2 1/2 hours Thursday by a committee of British lawmakers investigating a phone-hacking scandal and attempted coverup at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid.

Murdoch came across as the kind of boss many of us have encountered in our careers -- unfortunately.

"He's someone who finds [it] almost impossible to say he was wrong -- an interesting contrast with his father," said Claire Enders, a media analyst with Enders Analysis research group in London.

Given the chance, did Jimmy take the high road? Surprise -- he did not:

Instead, he blamed his underlings. Murdoch said they did not disclose vital information or show him an email unearthed in 2008 that showed several people at News of the World were involved in the hacking. The email undermined News Corp.'s position that the wrongdoing was limited to a private investigator and one "rogue reporter." Murdoch said he was never shown the email.

Ah, the old "I never got the email" dodge, eh?  Clever.

Unfortunately for Murdoch, others remembered things, uh, a little differently:

Hours after the hearing, Tom Crone, former legal advisor to the tabloid, released a statement disputing Murdoch's version of events.

"The simple truth is that he was told by us in 2008 about the damning email and what it meant in terms of wider News of the World involvement," Crone said. "At best, his evidence on this matter was disingenuous."

See how polite the British still are?  In the U.S., a lawmaker shouts "You lie" at the president, even when he doesn't. In Britain, a business tycoon lies and they simply call him "disingenuous."

Of course,  we in the former colonies can't afford to be too smug, what with the Penn State sexual abuse scandal  and the Herman Cain sexual harassment scandal.  Not to mention the long-ago Richard Nixon Watergate scandal (with fascinating details revealed Thursday in newly released grand jury testimony) and, closer to home, Sheriff Lee Baca's L.A. County jails inmate abuse scandal

In all of those cases, the guys at the top, oddly, didn't know anything. Makes you wonder how such dumb guys got so far, huh?

I could be wrong, but it's not always been this way.  I seem to remember one Robert E. Lee, watching his battered troops retreat at Gettysburg, who said: "All this has been my fault."

Then were was Dwight D. Eisenhower.  He prepared a message if the D-day landings failed that said in part: "If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."

And after the Bay of Pigs debacle, President John F. Kennedy said: "What matters is only one fact; I am the responsible officer of the government."

Not to mention Harry Truman's famous "The buck stops here" sign on his presidential desk.

I guess at News Corp., for those making the big bucks, the buck stops down the hall.

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--Paul Whitefield

Photo: News Corp. executive James Murdoch speaks in London to members of Parliament investigating the phone-hacking scandal at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid. Credit: Reuters  

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