Piers Morgan demands MP apology over hacking 'lies'
- 20 July 2011
- From the section UK Politics
Piers Morgan has demanded Tory MP Louise Mensch apologise for claiming he had admitted using phone hacking to get stories when he was a tabloid editor.
The two clashed on CNN after Mrs Mensch said Mr Morgan had "boasted" in his book about hacking phones to get a news story while he was at the Daily Mirror.
But the MP refused to repeat the claim outside Parliament where statements by MPs are protected from prosecution.
Mr Morgan accused her of "cowardice" and of telling "an outrageous lie".
Mr Morgan also firmly denied sanctioning any phone hacking while he was at those newspapers, saying: "For the record, at my time at the Mirror and the News of the World I have never hacked a phone, told any body to hack a phone or published any stories based on the hacking of a phone."
The row was sparked by comments made during the Commons culture, media and sport committee hearing with News Corporation bosses Rupert and James Murdoch on Tuesday. She also repeated them when the committee questioned former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks - a former colleague of Mr Morgan.
The MPs were questioning the Murdochs about phone hacking allegations at the News of the World - and their company's response to them, in a lengthy session.
Corby MP Mrs Mensch - best known as the best-selling author Louise Bagshawe, until she married Peter Mensch, manager of rock band Metallica, in June - asked why they had not spoken to Mr Morgan about it.
In the committee hearing, she said: "As a former editor of the Daily Mirror, he said in his book The Insider recently that that 'little trick' of entering a 'standard four digit code' will allow 'anyone' to call a number and 'hear all your messages'.
"In that book, he boasted that using that "little trick" enabled him to win scoop of the year on a story about Sven-Goran Eriksson. That is a former editor of the Daily Mirror being very open about his personal use of phone hacking."
A furious Mr Morgan, who now hosts his own programme on CNN, challenged her to provide evidence of her claim in an interview with CNN.
In his book, published in 2005, he makes a reference to phone hacking in relation to a Department for Trade and Industry investigation he was subject to over the "City Slickers" share dealing affair - noting that developments in the case appear to have been leaked to journalists.
In an entry dated 26 January 2001, he says: "Given that the DTI has not to my knowledge leaked anything about this case to anyone, I am mystified. But someone suggested today that people might be listening to my mobile phone messages. Apparently, if you don't change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and, if you don't answer, tap in the standard four digit code to hear all your messages. I'll change mine just in case, but it makes me wonder how many public figures and celebrities are aware of this little trick."
Speaking on Wednesday, he said: "For an MP to use Parliamentary privilege and state that I wrote in my book that I use phone hacking for stories is a complete outrage because anyone who has read the book knows that I said no such thing.
"I would quite like her to read the book and then apologise in the same public forum that she used to make these ridiculous allegations."
On CNN he accused her of telling "an absolute blatant lie during those proceedings" adding: "You are hiding in a cowardly way, as a lot of MPs tend to do ... behind the cloak of this privilege that you have".
In the CNN interview Mrs Mensch would not repeat the allegation but said she was "perfectly content" with what she had said.
"I can't comment about it outside that committee room because as Mr Morgan will know, inside Parliament when I spoke as a select committee of Parliament I am protected by absolute Parliamentary privilege - to repeat something outside of Parliament doesn't give me that cloak of privilege and Mr Morgan is a very rich man."
But she added: "I feel no need to apologise, I refer you to what I said in the select committee."
A spokeswoman for Mrs Mensch said on Wednesday she was not making further comment on the row.