Piers Morgan just can’t get away from the phone-hacking scandal. Or perhaps the phone-hacking scandal can’t get away from him.
Whatever the case, the rush is on to unearth every last utterance Morgan has made regarding journalism ethics and practices. That makes sense. When you’re Larry King’s successor on CNN, after all, you make for a welcoming target. Morgan formerly worked as an editor for both the News of the World (1994-1995) and the Daily Mirror (1995-2004).
Just this morning, the Telegraph posted a story rehashing interview comments Morgan made in 2007. The backdrop for the discussion was the conviction of News of the World investigator Clive Goodman on phone-hacking charges. Morgan said: “As for Clive Goodman, I feel a lot of sympathy for a man who has been the convenient fall guy for an investigative practice that everyone knows was going on at almost every paper in Fleet Street for years.”
Another Morgan highlight making the rounds comes from a BBC interview in 2009. The interviewer, Kirsty Young, asks Morgan about associating with “people who rake through bins for a living” and “people who tap people’s phones.”
Morgan replied: “Well, to be honest, let’s put that into perspective as well. Not a lot of that went on…A lot of it was done by third parties, rather than the staff themselves.”
Now that he’s in a more puritan journo-standard environment, Morgan has ditched the glibness about British news practices. Fighting to keep his foothold in prime-time respectability, he’s going categorical. “I want to be really clear about this: I’ve never hacked a phone, never told anyone else to hack a phone, or published any stories based on the hacking of a phone,” Morgan has said on the topic. Morgan told the Daily Beast that there are no inconsistencies between his contemporary, American statements and his old, British ones.
What’s so entertaining about this episode is not (necessarily) watching a slick TV guy fulminate and protest. It’s tracking the movement of slime from party to party in the British journo-political universe.
First there’s Morgan himself. Trust that he’s telling the truth about not authorizing or participating in phone hacking. He’s still expressing public sympathy for someone who broke the law in pursuit of stories. That’s not the sort of guy I’d want fronting my coverage team.
Then there’s his chief accuser, former Daily Mirror columnist James Hipwell. This guy recently charged that phone hacking was “endemic” under Morgan’s leadership. Hipwell was convicted years ago of insider trading, a point not lost on Morgan.
I don’t mind being wrongly smeared with all this #Hackgate stuff, I’d just rather it wasn’t done by liars, druggie ex-bankrupts and conmen.
Moving right along, there’s the case of Louise Mensch. She’s the MP who slammed Morgan in a parliamentary hearing, saying that Morgan had boasted in his 2005 book — The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade — about nailing a story via phone eavesdropping.
No, he hadn’t. In a fit of pique, Mensch had lashed out at a rival without the facts to back her up — sort of like a good British tabloid editor. When pressed to repeat her allegation outside of the legally protective confines of Parliament, Mensch refused to do so.
If things keep going this way, the happenings in Britain over the past few weeks will stop being known as the “News Corp. crisis.” They’ll just be known as the “British mess.”