CNN's Piers Morgan denies he hacked phones for Rupert Murdoch
CNN host Piers Morgan is lashing back at an allegation from a British Parliament member that he participated in the hacking scandal that's rocking Rupert Murdoch's news empire.
Morgan, the host of CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight" and a judge on NBC's "America's Got Talent," was accused of being one of the Murdoch News Corp. journalists who allegedly hacked into the voicemails of celebrities and government officials to get scoops. During the mid-1990s, Morgan edited Murdoch's News of the World tabloid, which has since been shuttered following intense criticism of its investigative methods.
Louise Mensch, a Conservative member of Parliament, attacked Morgan by name during committee hearings Tuesday, saying: "He said in his book 'The Insider' recently, and I quote, that that little trick of entering a standard four-digit code allows anyone to call that number and hear your messages," adding that Morgan had been "very open about his personal use of phone hacking."
But Morgan has dismissed Mensch's claim as "nonsense" and a "blatant lie." He says that in his book he actually wondered whether he had been a hacking victim himself and that a friend had pointed out the potential pitfall of the default code.
"The only entry in my book referring to phone hacking was when somebody warned me that my phone might be being hacked and advised me to change my pin number," Morgan told Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "The Situation Room" on Tuesday afternoon.
Mensch, who also appeared on the CNN program, declined to repeat the charge, implying that Morgan might sue her. "To repeat something outside of Parliament doesn't give me that cloak of privilege, and Mr. Morgan is a very rich man," she told Blitzer. But Mensch is not alone: Influential British political blogger Paul Staines, who writes under the pseudonym Guido Fawkes, has also accused Morgan of phone hacking.
It's not entirely surprising the scandal has touched Morgan. One of the best-known celebrities in Britain, he has remained close to the Murdoch family and staunchly defended his former boss on "The Situation Room."
"Nobody proved to, I don't think, any mutual neutral observer that Rupert Murdoch had any personal knowledge of what was going on with this phone hacking," Morgan said. "It's been very damaging for the Murdoch family, for the corporation."
Morgan was fired in 2004 as editor of another British tabloid, the Daily Mirror, after photos it published that purportedly showed Iraqi prisoners being abused by British troops were proved to be a hoax.
-- Scott Collins
Photo: Piers Morgan. Credit: Fred Prouser / Reuters