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Labour MP Tom Watson was accused of ‘irresponsible exaggeration’ for accusing News International of being a mafia-like organisation while questioning James Murdoch, the News International CEO, who was giving evidence to the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee about allegations of illegal phone hacking.

Many analysts think Mr Watson’s use of mafia analogy could have backfired and even ultimately strengthened Mr Murdoch’s position.

In his reply to Mr Watson’s line of questioning, Mr Murdoch attempted to rise above the accusations and, describing the references to the mafia as ‘inappropriate’, said:

Bene, Tom. My father is a man with powerful friends. He worked his whole life to take care of his family. That’s our life, we don’t apologize for that. That’s what the family do, and we must respect that.

Mr Murdoch then went on to claim to the committee that illegal activity at the organisation had never been sanctioned by him and, denying he was aware of any wrong doing by any of his employees, he explained:

You see, the family, we refuse to be like fools dancing on the strings held by all of these big shots, these politicians we carry around in our pockets, like so many nickels and dimes.

He also took great pains to point out that News international had cooperated with the police in the investigation from the very moment they had learned of the allegations. In answer to further questioning, he told the members of the committee that he had always personally been serious about improving the ethics of News International and he wished to clean things up just as much as everyone else did, saying:

But be careful what you wish for. It could be your last.

In another development, all attempts to contact Mr Watson after his controversial comments were unsuccessful and an anonymous spokesperson from his office said he would be unavailable for comment for the foreseeable future as he would be away on a long vacation. A very long one.

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