LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - British journalist Piers Morgan said on Wednesday he had never strayed into illegal tactics during his years working for three British tabloid newspapers.
Morgan, who has already denied any role in the phone hacking scandal engulfing News Corp’s News of the World paper, made his latest statement after media outlets unearthed a 2009 interview with BBC Radio, in which Morgan seemed to validate some shady actions by tabloids.
The current host of the CNN talk show “Piers Morgan Tonight” has come under scrutiny in the past week because he edited the News of the World from 1994 to 1995 and later edited the rival U.K. tabloid, the Daily Mirror until he left in 2004.
Morgan has also raised eyebrows for publicly defending News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch, who shut down the News of the World earlier this month after allegations of widespread phone hacking by reporters and private investigators in search of exclusive stories.
On the 2009 BBC radio program “Desert Island Discs,” Morgan was asked how as a “nice middle class boy” he felt about people who “rake through bins” and “tap people’s phones” to dig up dirt for the tabloids.
“To be honest, let’s put that in perspective as well,” Morgan said on the program. “Not a lot of that went on. A lot of it was done by third parties rather than the staff themselves. That’s not to defend it, because obviously you were running the results of their work.”
In a statement on Wednesday, Morgan sought to clarify his remarks in 2009.
“My answer was not specific to any of the numerous examples (the interviewer) gave, but a general observation about tabloid newspaper reporters and private investigators,” he said.
“As I have said before, I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, nor to my knowledge published any story obtained from the hacking of a phone.”
In Britain, questions are now being asked about whether the scandal went beyond papers owned by News Corp. Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Daily Mirror, said on Tuesday it had launched a review of its editorial controls and procedures, while the Daily Mail newspaper group said its titles had not published any stories based on hacked messages.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Jill Serjeant