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Piers Morgan rips Heather Mills in new hacking twist

August 3, 2011 |  7:03 pm

Paul McCartney and Heather Mills in happier times in 2001. Credit: Darko Bandic / AP So now it's Piers Morgan vs. Heather Mills in the latest phone-hacking controversy.

Mills, the former wife of Paul McCartney, told the BBC this week that when she was dating the ex-Beatle in 2001, a senior reporter from Britain's Mirror Group of newspapers called her up and read verbatim from a message McCartney had left on her voicemail. At the time, Morgan was the editor of the Daily Mirror tabloid. Mills insists there's no way the journalist could have acquired the message without illegally hacking into her phone.

Of course, a furor over alleged hacking into celebrity phones has over the last few weeks engulfed Rupert Murdoch's tabloid empire, where Morgan once plied his trade. Morgan -- now the host of a nightly CNN talk show as well as a judge on NBC's "America's Got Talent" -- has sworn that he was never involved in hacking phones during his time as a journalist. A member of British Parliament accused Morgan of hacking but later apologized.

The Mills claim might be a little harder to shake, even if there's not quite a smoking gun that directly implicates him in the affair. Morgan in a 2007 column wrote that an unspecified person had once played him the McCartney message. He even noted that the singer-songwriter had crooned "We Can Work It Out," one of his old Beatles hits, into the phone. Mills says hacking was the only means by which Morgan could have heard that tape.

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Responding to the latest twist in the case on Wednesday, Morgan called Mills' story "unsubstantiated" and said the BBC told him that the unnamed reporter in question had not worked for Morgan's paper. He then noted that McCartney later accused Mills herself of hacking into his phone messages and leaking information to reporters. "No doubt everyone will take this and other instances of somewhat extravagant claims by Ms. Mills into account in assessing what credibility and platform her assertions are given," Morgan wrote in a prepared statement. His statement carefully sidestepped who played him the McCartney tape or whether he knew how it had been obtained. 

The latest twist has an extra fillip of intrigue. Morgan claims to have been the matchmaker who introduced McCartney to Mills at the Mirror's Pride of Britain Awards in 1999. Although he says he was an early admirer of the land-mine activist, Morgan later turned on Mills, calling her a "vengeful, shameless, ghastly woman."

Hacking or no, sounds like this pair still have some unfinished business.

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-- Scott Collins
Twitter.com/scottcollinsLAT

Photo: Paul McCartney and Heather Mills in happier times in 2001. Credit: Darko Bandic /Associated Press.

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