UK

Piers Morgan denies phone-hacking 'admission'

  • 27 July 2011
  • From the section UK

Former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan says comments he made on BBC radio in 2009 do not suggest he printed stories obtained through illegal reporting.

The CNN host released a statement after several news organisations published a transcript of his interview on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.

In it, he admits "running the results" of work by third parties who did "rake through bins... tap people's phones".

But Mr Morgan's statement repeated his recent denial of using phone hacking.

"There is no contradiction between my comments on Kirsty Young's Desert Island Discs show and my unequivocal statements with regard to phone hacking," it said.

"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."

On Tuesday, Trinity Mirror, publishers of the Mirror and Sunday Mirror, announced a review of editorial "controls and procedures" following the phone-hacking scandal.

The company said it was being conducted in the light of the current environment rather than a specific allegation.

'Tabloid beast'

Separately, the BBC has found evidence of possible hacking at the Sunday Mirror, and there are separate claims Daily Mirror journalists hacked voicemails.

Former journalist James Hipwell, who was jailed for writing about companies whose shares he owned, told an Australian newspaper that in the late 1990s Mirror staff were told to go through the voicemails of celebrities.

However, Mr Morgan, who has also edited the News of the World which closed amid allegations of widespread use of hacking, strongly denies sanctioning the tactic.

"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," his statement said.

On Desert Island Discs, presenter Kirsty Young asked him: "What about this nice middle-class boy who would have to be dealing with, I mean, essentially people who rake through bins for a living, people who tap people's phones, people who take secret photographs and do all that very nasty down-in-the-gutter stuff?"

Mr Morgan replied that "not a lot of that went on".

But he continued: "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 as tabloid beast and to have to sit here defending all these things I used to get up to. I make no pretence 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 low end of the newspaper market."

However, in his statement released on Wednesday, Mr Morgan said: "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."

'Well-known' tactic

Meanwhile, Roy Greenslade's Guardian blog refers to a report published in GQ magazine in February, detailing an interview Mr Morgan conducted with Naomi Campbell where the supermodel began asking him questions.

When she asked if he allowed phone tapping while editor of the News of the World, he replied that he was editor before mobiles were widely used and hacking into voicemails known about.

However, he spoke about the jailing of former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman for phone hacking.

"It was pretty well-known that if you didn't change your pin code when you were a celebrity who bought a new phone, then reporters could ring your mobile, tap in a standard factory setting number and hear your messages," said Mr Morgan.

"That is not, to me, as serious as planting a bug in someone's house, which is what some people seem to think was going on.

"It is [an invasion of privacy], yes. But loads of newspaper journalists were doing it."

Mr Morgan became embroiled in the controversy over hacking when Conservative MP Louise Mensch claimed he had "boasted" about hacking phones in his memoir.

She made the claim during the Commons culture, media and sport committee hearing with News Corporation bosses Rupert and James Murdoch.

Mr Morgan reacted angrily and demanded she apologise.

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