Piers Morgan and the Case of the Incredible Metastasizing Phone Hacking Scandal


As the News Corp phone hacking scandal broadens to include other Murdoch properties on Fleet Street, at least one newsman working stateside has been mentioned in connection with the privacy violations: CNN’s Piers Morgan, who used to edit News Corp’s Daily Mirror.

Forbes reported on Tuesday that a blogger had “a recording” that might constitute a smoking gun linking Morgan to the phone hacks, but now that the recording has surfaced – and it’s a recording made by the BBC, not by a corporate espionage agent wearing a wire – has surfaced, that doesn’t appear to be the case. If anything, Morgan simply seems a bit too candid.

It’s a 2009 interview with BBC 4’s “Desert Island Discs,” Morgan told interviewer Kirsty Young when she asked about “all that nasty, down-in-the-gutter stuff,” including phone hacking, that “a lot of it was done by third parties, rather than by the staff themselves.

That admission (and Morgan’s stated sympathy for phone hacking scapegoat Clive Goodman in 2007) would be less scandalous if Morgan didn’t appear to contradict his own statements from July 19: “I’ve never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, or published any stories based on the hacking of a phone,” Morgan tweeted.

Morgan added the crucial escape clause “to my knowledge” to the tweet in a statement issued Wednesday, along with saying that his answer to Young was “not specific,” to which we say “fair enough,” although the “We didn’t really do it, and anyway, Billy cheated on his homework, too” defense is pretty weak. I guess by “down-in-the-gutter-stuff,” Morgan assumed Young was referring to poor sportsmanship on the cricket pitch.

Young’s full question, with Morgan’s answer:

Young: And what about this nice middle-class boy who would essentially have to be dealing with people who rake through bins for a living? People who tap people’s phones, people who take secret photographs, who do all that nasty, down-in-the-gutter stuff?

Morgan: To be honest, let’s put that in perspective as well. Not a lot of that went on. A lot of it was done by third parties rather than the staff themselves. That’s not to defend it, because obviously you were running the results of their work. I’m quite happy to be parked in the corner of tabloid beast and to have to sit here defending all these things I used to get up to, and I make no pretence about the stuff we used to do. I simply say the net of people doing it was very wide, and certainly encompassed the high and the low end of the supposed newspaper market.

Morgain’s statement on the back-and-forth:

“There is no contradiction between my comments on Kirsty Young’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ show and my unequivocal statements with regard to phone-hacking. Millions of people heard these comments when I first made them in 2009 on one of the BBC’s longest -running radio shows, and none deduced that I was admitting to, or condoning illegal reporting activity. Kirsty asked me a fairly lengthy question about how I felt dealing with people operating at the sharp end of investigative journalism. My answer was not specific to any of the numerous examples she gave, but a general observation about tabloid newspaper reporters and private investigators. As I have said before, I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, nor to my knowledge published any story obtained from the hacking of a phone.”

The 2009 interview is here, and it’s very interesting, notably the part in which Morgan recalls telling Prince William and Diana that “your mother is one of the most famous people in the world, and you (Diana, presumptively) are public property, I’m afraid, to an extent” and that he’s “just going to have to live with it.”

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