LONDON - Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused media tycoon Rupert Murdoch on Monday of misleading a government-sponsored inquiry into press ethics with incorrect testimony alleging Brown had threatened war against Murdoch's company.
"This conversation never took place. I am shocked and surprised that it should be suggested," Brown told the Leveson inquiry. "This call did not happen. The threat was not made."
"I find it shocking," Brown said."This did not happen. There is no evidence that it happened other than Mr Murdoch's but it didn't happen."
Murdoch had told the inquiry under oath that Brown phoned him in September 2009 after the Sun newspaper started supporting the Conservative Party. Brown vowed to wage war on Murdoch's company in revenge, he testified.
"We were talking more quietly than you or I are now - he said, 'Well, your company has declared war on my government and we have no alternative but to make war on your company,'" Murdoch told the inquiry in April.
When pressed on how a serving prime minister could make such a threat, Murdoch told the inquiry: "I don't think he was in a very balanced state of mind".
Brown, who served as prime minister from 2007 to 2010, said that Murdoch was wrong about both the date and the contents of the phone call.
Statements submitted to a media watchdog by five of Brown's advisers, and seen by Reuters, show none of the five heard Brown threaten Murdoch on the call.
Aides to Brown, including his special adviser, director of strategy and deputy chief of staff, said in statements submitted to the Press Complaints Commission last year that Brown made no such threat on the call, which took place in November not September as Murdoch had said.
"I listened to the phone call between Mr Brown and Mr. Murdoch in November 2009," Stewart Wood, special adviser to the Prime Minister's office, said in a statement dated October 2011 that Reuters has seen.
"At no point in the conversation was threatening language of any sort used by either Mr Brown or Mr Murdoch," Wood said.
In one of the other corroborating statement, lawmaker Michael Dugher, wrote: "At no time did Mr Brown threaten the position of News International. Both Mr. Brown and Mr. Murdoch were entirely courteous and calm."
A former British leader accusing Murdoch of misleading the inquiry under oath will further tarnish the reputation of the world's most powerful media tycoon in a country which is home to some of his biggest newspaper and broadcasting interests.
A British parliamentary committee which investigated allegations of illegal phone-hacking by Murdoch publications has already deemed the Australian-born tycoon unfit to manage a major global company.
The cross-party parliamentary committee said in May that Murdoch was ultimately responsible for the illegal phone hacking that has corroded his global media empire and convulsed Britain's political elite.