LONDON Dec 20 Talk show host Piers Morgan
told a British judicial inquiry on Tuesday he had never
sanctioned phone hacking during his time as a tabloid editor, as
he faced tough questions over his inolvement in the "dark arts"
Morgan, now a high-profile CNN talk-show host in the United
States, edited the Rupert Murdoch tabloid at the heart of the
hacking scandal, the News of the World, from 1994 to 1995 before
going on to edit the Daily Mirror newspaper from 1995 to 2004.
Morgan has consistently denied any involvement in the
practice which resulted in the closure of Murdoch's Sunday
tabloid but politicans had called for him to appear before the
high-profile inquiry after his name became associated with the
Asked why he had previously given interviews in which he
said that everyone knew about phone hacking, Morgan said he was
merely repeating rumours at the time and that no one at the
Mirror had been found guilty.
"Not a single person has made any formal or legal complaint
against the Daily Mirror for phone hacking, not one," he said,
in often testy exchanges with the lead prosecutor in the inquiry
and the judge, Brian Leveson.
Referring to Clive Goodman, the one journalist who went to
jail for hacking, Morgan had said he had been made a scapegoat.
But he said that still did not mean that he had had any prior
knowledge of the issue.
"The Fleet Street rumour mill, which is always extremely
noisy and often not entirely always accurate, was buzzing since
this blew up with just endless rumours that it spread a lot
further than Clive Goodman," he said. "I felt sorry for him."
Much of the questioning centred on an article Morgan wrote
for another newspaper, the Daily Mail, in 2006 in which he made
reference to how he had listened to a phone message left for the
ex-wife of former Beatle Paul McCartney.
The article was written in 2006 and before any allegations
of phone hacking had surfaced and caused such trouble.
As the scale of the phone hacking problem emerged this
summer, McCartney's ex-wife Heather Mills gave an interview
about the incident and said that a senior journalist at the
Trinity Mirror Group had admitted hacking her phone.
Mills said the journalist had confronted her with details of
a message left by McCartney in early 2001 following a row
between the couple. She said the journalist was not Morgan, but
that he was editor of the paper at the time.
Asked about the incident, Morgan refused to say who had
played him the recorded message and said he did not think it was
entirely unethical to listen to someone's voice message.
The phone hacking scandal, which severely damaged the
reputation and value of Murdoch's News Corp at the
height of the scandal this year, has largely focused on the
malpractice at the News of the World.
But the allegation by Mills briefly turned the spotlight on
the behaviour of other tabloids, which have for years competed
ferociously to secure front-page stories.
It also turned the spotlight onto Morgan who took over from
Larry King as he developed a high successful television career
in the U.S. with the "Piers Morgan Tonight" show.
News Corp has accepted that people working for the News of
the World hacked into the phones of celebrities, politicians and
the victims of crime to generate stories. It said earlier on
Tuesday that it had settled legal claims with a further seven
people as it works through the separate allegations.
The scandal, which dominated news headlines in July, has
also damaged the reputations of British politicians and police,
who were all shown to be too close to Murdoch's media group.
At the height of the scandal, News Corp closed the
168-year-old News of the World and pulled its most important
planned acquisition in Britain in decades, the $12 billion
purchase of the rest of BSkyB it did not already own.