The phone-hacking scandal that has wounded Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and shuttered the News of the World tabloid newspaper is also now threatening CNN’s Piers Morgan. Larry King’s replacement was the top editor at News of the World in the mid-1990s and later ran the Mirror, and Louise Mensch, a British politician, erroneously inferred that Morgan had admitted illegal hacking in his 2005 autobiography when she questioned Murdoch and former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks last week. Morgan confronted her on Wolf Blitzer’s show and declared, “For the record, in my time at the Mirror and the News of the World, I have never hacked a phone, told anybody to hack a phone or published any story based on the hacking of a phone.”
Now, a 2009 interview has resurfaced that has Morgan on the defensive again. Appearing on a radio show, Desert Island Discs with host Kirsty Young, Morgan responded to “all that nasty down-in-the-gutter stuff” that tabloid newspapers were notorious for:
“To be honest, let’s put that in perspective as well. 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. I’m quite happy to be parked in the corner of tabloid beast and to have to sit here defending all these things I used to get up to, and I make no pretense about the stuff we used to do. I simply say the net of people doing it was very wide, and certainly encompassed the high and the low end of the supposed newspaper market.”
The Daily Beast has the clip:
To some, that sounds like an admission of some guilt. But in a new statement originally posted on Mediaite.com, Morgan insists:
“There is no contradiction between my comments on Kirsty Young’s Desert Island Discs show and my unequivocal statements with regard to
phone-hacking. Millions of people heard these comments when I first made them in 2009 on one of the BBC’s longest-running radio shows, and none deduced that I was admitting to, or condoning illegal reporting activity. Kirsty asked me a fairly lengthy question about how I felt dealing with people operating at the sharp end of investigative journalism. My answer was not specific to any of the numerous examples she gave, but a general observation about tabloid newspaper reporters and private investigators. 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..”
Is this the end of the story, PopWatchers? Or just the beginning?