CNN's Morgan denies phone hacking in testy appearance

Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:21pm EST
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By Georgina Prodhan and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - Talk show host Piers Morgan told a British judicial inquiry on Tuesday he had never sanctioned phone hacking during his time as a tabloid editor, as he faced tough questions over his involvement in the "dark arts" of journalism.

Morgan, now a high-profile CNN talk-show host in the United States, edited the Rupert Murdoch tabloid at the heart of the hacking scandal, the News of the World, from 1994 to 1995 before going on to edit the Daily Mirror newspaper from 1995 to 2004.

Morgan has consistently denied any involvement in the practice which resulted in the closure of Murdoch's Sunday tabloid but politicians had called for him to appear before the high-profile inquiry after his name became associated with the scandal.

Asked why he had previously given interviews in which he said that everyone knew about phone hacking, Morgan said he was merely repeating rumors at the time and that no one at the Mirror had been found guilty.

"Not a single person has made any formal or legal complaint against the Daily Mirror for phone hacking, not one," he said, in often testy exchanges with the lead prosecutor in the inquiry and the judge, Brian Leveson.

Referring to Clive Goodman, the one journalist who went to jail for hacking, Morgan had said he had been made a scapegoat. But he said that still did not mean that he had had any prior knowledge of the issue.

"The Fleet Street rumor mill, which is always extremely noisy and often not entirely always accurate, was buzzing since this blew up with just endless rumors that it spread a lot further than Clive Goodman," he said. "I felt sorry for him."

Much of the questioning centered on an article Morgan wrote for another newspaper, the Daily Mail, in 2006 in which he made reference to how he had listened to a phone message left for the ex-wife of former Beatle Paul McCartney.   Continued...

<p>Former editor of the Daily Mirror and News Of The World Piers Morgan speaks at the Leveson Inquiry at the High Court in central London in this December 20, 2011 still image taken from video. The inquiry, headed by senior judge Brian Leveson and due to last a year, will make recommendations that could have a lasting impact on the news industry, lead to tighter media rules or at least an overhaul of the current system of self-regulation. REUTERS/Pool via Reuters TV</p>