On Twitter, Piers Morgan spent this morning and last night defending himself from allegations that he was involved in phone hacking during his time as an editor of two British tabloids. The CNN anchor has become an irresistible target for muckraking journalists looking to drag him into the ever-expanding scandal. For one, he's the ballyhooed successor of longtime CNN anchor Larry King. For another, he's British and has spent much of his life knee-deep in the Fleet Street trench wars as an editor for News of the World from 1994 to 1995 and the Daily Mirror from 1995 to 2004. As much as his antagonists have tried, they've still found no smoking gun that suggests he committed any crimes. But here's a look at the individuals trying to take him down:
Guido Fawkes Since the scandal first broke, British blogger Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes, has been a vocal Morgan antagonist. Yesterday, Fawkes claimed he had a recording of Morgan that provided a smoking gun connecting him to the phone hacking. But as Forbes's Jeff Bercovici wrote, the recording from a 2009 episode of the BBC radio program Desert Island Discs is "not exactly the bombshell Staines made it out to be." During the recording, interviewer Kirsty Young asks Morgan how comfortable he was with "all that nasty down-in-the-gutter stuff" tabloid editors face, including phone hacking and other unsavory techniques. He responded:
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.
Though it sounds unseemly, he never admits to phone hacking specifically. As Bercovici notes, " It’s certainly something short of the categorical denial of hacking involvement Morgan gave the New York Times. But it’s also nothing close to a smoking gun. Trash-sifting and paparazzi photography are very different matters from phone hacking... If this is the best evidence that anyone has against him, Morgan can sleep easy tonight." It should be noted The Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove also tried to play up the recordings with the accusatory, though not incriminating, headline "Morgan Admits Dodgy Practices."
Louise Mensch At a parliamentary hearing, the British author and Conservative Party MP accused Morgan of admitting to phone hacking in his 2005 book The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade. But the book didn't reveal any such admission, notes Erik Wemple at The Washington Post: "In a fit of pique, Mensch had lashed out at a rival without the facts to back her up — sort of like a good British tabloid editor. When pressed to repeat her allegation outside of the legally protective confines of Parliament, Mensch refused to do so." Mensch continues to levy attacks against Morgan via Twitter however, which have elicited bitter responses from Morgan:
James Hipwell Hipwell worked at the Daily Mirror during the time Morgan was an editor. In an interview with The Independent Hipwell said phone hacking was "endemic" under Morgan's leadership. "Piers was extremely hands-on as an editor. He was on the [newsroom] floor every day, walking up and down behind journalists, looking over their shoulders. I can't say 100 per cent that he knew about it. But it was inconceivable he didn't." However, Hipwell himself doesn't have the rosiest of backgrounds. He was fired from the Mirror in 2000 and convicted of insider trading--something Morgan will certainly not let go.