Piers Morgan has said he will not "drop his friends" who are currently standing trial at the Old Bailey over allegations of phone hacking because doing so would be "just ridiculous". Speaking at the 92 Street Y in New York on Sunday evening, the former editor of the Mirror said of those in court, "Some of them I’m great friends with… some of them I don’t know at all, but some are good friends and the idea you drop a friend just because they [allegedly] did something wrong is ridiculous."
Eight people are currently standing trial for a raft of offences connected to phone hacking, including former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.
The CNN host, who appeared via satellite at the Leveson inquiry in 2011 to testify that to the best of his "recollection" hacking did not occur during his tenure at the Mirror, drew comparisons between the London trial and the ongoing revelations about NSA spying.
Morgan said: "There’s a certain irony to me that people I know, some good friends of mine are currently in the Old Bailey, the most criminal court in Britain, facing allegations of phone hacking, which is deemed to be the most despicable thing that’s ever happened, in the same week that President Obama was proudly conceding that they [the NSA] were bugging Angela Merkel."
When the Leveson report was finally published late last year, Morgan's testimony on phone hacking was called "utterly unpersuasive".
The journalist, who is currently promoting his new book, Shooting Straight: Guns, Gays, God and George Clooney, reflected: "It all comes down to what people’s expectations of privacy should be. If the only people that the newspapers were hacking were Osama bin Laden and his like, nobody would have been complaining about it. The question then becomes about what’s in the public interest. Were they legitimate targets for the NSA and the newspapers? It’s a complex issue and one of the few issues that I’m not honestly sure about yet.”
The 48-year-old added: "The debate is fascinating. I don’t look at Edward Snowden and think you’re a terrible villain, but I don’t look at him as some whistle blowing hero either." In regards to his own life, Morgan conceded that "as a former newspaper editor and as a public figure who hosts a cable news show" he had "zero expectations of privacy".
On his flagship issue of gun control Morgan blamed "cowardice" for the inaction over gun safety in the wake of the Aurora and Sandy Hook shootings. "Politicians are cowards," he said. "There are a number of Democratic senators who believe in gun control but will not push it for fear of losing their seats. Change will come down to politicians and the people. Ninety-five per cent of Americans believe in background checks… well [they should] vote accordingly."
Here's are some of Morgan's biggest clashes over American gun rights.