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CNN's Piers Morgan says he never authorized phone hacking

December 20, 2011 | 12:28 pm

Piers Morgan appearing before Leveson Inquiry

Piers Morgan, the former tabloid editor turned CNN personality, told an inquiry by the British government into journalism ethics that hacking into the phones of prominent personalities was not something he engaged in when he was running the Daily Mirror or at News Corp.'s News of the World.

Testifying via video from the United States where he hosts a low-rated nightly talk show for CNN, Morgan acknowledged Tuesday that hacking into phones by the tabloids was a "widespread practice." However, he claimed he had never sanctioned or engaged in such behavior himself.

“Not a single person has made a formal complaint against a Daily Mirror journalist,” he told lawyer Robert Jay. “Certainly all journalists knew they had to act within the confines of the law. This was enshrined within their contracts.”

The inquiry was launched in response to admissions of phone hacking done by News of the World tabloid. The paper, which was closed because of the scandal, hacked into the voicemails of not only celebrities and members of the royal family, but also crime victims. News Corp. has made several settlements with victims including the family of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, whose phone was hacked by News of the World. On Tuesday, News Corp. settled seven more claims against the media company.

Morgan also said he had never given permission to pay off police for information, which is also something News of the World has been accused of doing.

While Morgan was insistent that his record was clean, he didn't have a lot of sympathy for celebrities who court the media when it suits them but then complain when it doesn't.

"How much privacy are you entitled to if you yourself use your privacy for commercial gain?" Morgan said. "I have very little sympathy with celebrities who sell their weddings for a million pounds … and then expect to have privacy if they get caught having affairs, for example, it seems to me a nonsensical position to adopt."

For more coverage of Morgan's appearance before the inquiry, see a Times' report in World Now.

-- Janet Stobart

Photo: Piers Morgan's testifies via video in a journalism ethics inquiry in Britain. Credit: AFP / Getty Images