CNN broadcaster Piers Morgan testified about phone hacking at the Leveson Inquiry On Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press on Tuesday. He appeared via videolink from Los Angeles.
Morgan was tapped to run News Corp.'s now defunct tabloid News of the World when he was just 28 years old. He then left News of the World for the Daily Mirror in 1995. According to the Associated Press, Morgan's tenure at the Daily Mirror "was marked by scoops and controversy." The 46-year-old host now hosts CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight."
Morgan revisited his time at both publications during Tuesday's testimony. He also reflected on his time working under News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch.
Robert Jay Q.C. asked Morgan to discuss a 1995 event that led to Murdoch publicly criticizing News of the World, the tabloid Morgan ran at the time. The paper published photographs of Victoria Spencer, the former wife of Princess Diana's brother, Earl. The photographs were of Spencer in an eating disorder clinic.
When Morgan recounted his "impression" of the incident, Jay hinted that the Leveson Inquiry may ask the News Corp. chief to testify. Speaking of Murdoch, Jay said "I can ask him for his impression when we get there."
The Guardian reported that the Leveson Inquiry could not comment on upcoming witnesses.
Morgan said that he first learned about phone hacking in 2001, but was never directly involved with the practice. He maintained that he never hacked a phone personally or ordered anyone to do so. He also said that while he was editor at Daily Mirror, he knew about "five percent" of what journalists' were specifically doing.
Morgan's testimony grew a bit heated after Jay pressed him on a voicemail message Paul McCartney left for his then-wife Heather Mills. In a 2006 article, Morgan said that a message McCartney left for Mills had been played for him. Jay asked Morgan if it was unethical to listen to someone else's voicemail. Morgan said that it depended on the circumstances under which the message was played.
Even when pressed by Jay and Lord Leveson, Morgan refused to describe the circumstances as he said it would compromise a source. Leveson responded by telling Morgan that he may call Lady McCartney to testify to find out if she gave Morgan personal permission to listen to her message.
View a timeline of the phone hacking scandal and a liveblog of Morgan's testimony below.
12/20/2011 12:14 PM EST
Morgan Says "He's Proud"
Morgan maintains that he is very proud of his work at the paper. He adds that the testimony went as he expected: "like a rock star" being confronted about an album from his back catalog. Morgan's evidence concludes.
12/20/2011 12:10 PM EST
Morgan requests to give a final statement, sort of refers to him as a "rock star."
12/20/2011 11:54 AM EST
Morgan On Celebrities and Privacy
Morgan wonders about the amount of privacy celebrities should be "entitled to," since they "sell their privacy" for money and public gain.
Morgan said he would put the "genre of celebrity last" if he had to list those who were entitled to privacy.
12/20/2011 11:47 AM EST
Jay asks Morgan about a Daily Mirror journalist who went undercover at Buckingham Palace to expose "breaches in royal security." Journalist posed as a royal footman.
Morgan said the story led the news for "about a week" and that it was in the public's best interest to have the journalist go undercover. "Rather us than a terrorist," Mogan said about the exposed breach in security.
12/20/2011 11:40 AM EST
Paying Police Officers
Morgan said he was never made aware of anyone at the Daily Mail paying off police officers for scoops and evidence.
12/20/2011 11:37 AM EST
Morgan's witness statement can be found on Leveson's website.
12/20/2011 11:22 AM EST
Paul McCartney and Heather Mills
Morgan confirms that he introduced Paul McCartney and Heather Mills. Jay asks about Morgan's statement that he was "played a tape" of a message that McCartney left on Mills' message while the couple was on the rocks.
Morgan says he cannot discuss the circumstances under which he heard the message as it would identify a source.
Morgan adds it was not unethical to listen to the voicemail message because it depends on the circumstances in which he listened to the tape.
Jay again asks him to describe the circumstances under which he listened to the message. Morgan refuses.
Leveson jumps in again. Tells Morgan that without identifying his source, the only person who would be able to lawfully allow him to listen to the message would be Lady McCartney or someone else authorized to listen to it.
"Possibly," Morgan responds. "What do you expect me to say?"
Leveson says he may call Lady McCartney to testify about whether she gave Morgan permission to listen to the voicemail message.
12/20/2011 11:10 AM EST
Morgan On Clive Goodman
Morgan asked why he felt bad for Clive Goodman, the "one rogue reporter" who was jailed for hacking the phones of royal aides. Morgan said that Goodman was made a scapegoat.
12/20/2011 10:57 AM EST
Morgan As Editor
Morgan said the average editor is only aware of about five percent of what his journalists are up to.
Morgan said at the Daily Mirror, the managing editor and news editors were more aware how journalists went about getting scoops for stories.
Lord Justice Leveson interrupts Morgan. Asks him to "answer Jay's questions" rather than get in a debate with him.
12/20/2011 10:51 AM EST
Benji The Binman
Robert Jay Q.C. asks Morgan about Benji the Binman, the British man who went through the trash bins of celebrities and public figures for tabloid stories. Morgan said he thought Benji the Binman was on the "cusp of unethical."
Robert Jay Q.C. says it's on the wrong side of the line to go through people's trash bins, Morgan does not necessarily agree. There seems to be a discrepancy about whether or not it is legal to go through trash bins of discarded materials.
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