By Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton
LONDON (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch sowed the seeds of the phone hacking scandal that has tarnished his reputation by forcing Britain's most respected newspapers into "a Faustian bargain" with the powerful, a former editor of the UK's Times newspaper said on Thursday.
Harry Evans told a British media inquiry how as editor of the Times he battled attempts by Murdoch to compel him to support British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
At the Leveson inquiry last month, Murdoch denied influencing the editorial stance of the Times papers. News Corp could not be immediately reached for comment on Evans' comments.
Evans is now editor at large for Reuters, which is owned by Thomson Reuters. The Thomson family, who owned the Times and the Sunday Times before Murdoch acquired them, controls Thomson Reuters.
Expressing disgust at a fall in journalistic standards that he said Murdoch helped stoke by fostering a culture of trifling scandal, Evans said reporters needed principles to prevent them getting too close to the powerful.
"It's a Faustian bargain when you get too intimate with politicians, it serves neither the politicians or the press well for the relationship to get to be one of complicity," Evans, 83, told the inquiry in the High Court.
"What happened in 1981 is entirely relevant to today, it's a manifestation of the same culture of too close a connection between a powerful media group and politicians," Evans said of his experience working as Times editor.
Evans edited the Sunday Times from 1967-1981. He agreed to edit the Times when offered the job by Murdoch but he only lasted a year. He stood down in 1982 in protest against what he saw as Murdoch's interference in editorial policy.
(Additional reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Martin Howell and John Mair)