March 8, 2021

CNN Host Is Dragged Into Phone Scandal

James Hipwell, a former journalist at The Daily Mirror, a tabloid edited by Mr. Morgan until 2004, now says that phone hacking was “endemic” at the paper. “Piers was extremely hands-on as an editor,” Mr. Hipwell, 45, told the British newspaper The Independent in an interview published Saturday. “I can’t say 100 percent that he knew about it. But it was inconceivable he didn’t.”

In an e-mail interview, Mr. Morgan struck back at that allegation and other suggestions by members of Parliament and a widely read political blog that his reporters had landed scoops at The Daily Mirror based on phone hacking. Members of Parliament have also said that Mr. Morgan should be questioned.

“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,” Mr. Morgan said. “I am not aware, and have never seen evidence to suggest otherwise, that any Mirror story published during my tenure was obtained from phone hacking.”

Mr. Morgan challenged Mr. Hipwell’s credibility, pointing to the fact that he is a convicted felon who went to jail in 2006 for 59 days for buying stock in companies before touting them in a Daily Mirror column, then selling the shares when the prices rose. Mr. Morgan himself was accused of profiting from the sale of one company’s stock based on the column, but said he “was cleared by both internal inquiry and external legal investigation.” Mr. Hipwell “lied repeatedly during the various investigations into the scandal — both about me and about other colleagues,” Mr. Morgan said. “He is not a credible witness.”

In an e-mail, Mr. Hipwell replied that his lawyers thought his case and Mr. Morgan’s had been “identical” and that they were surprised that Mr. Morgan was cleared. “No one has got to the bottom of why this happened,” he wrote.

A spokesman for Trinity Mirror, the publisher of The Daily Mirror, denied Mr. Hipwell’s allegations about hacking.

Asked if CNN had pressed him for assurances that he was not involved in phone hacking, Mr. Morgan replied, “My unequivocal statements on this matter speak for themselves.”

A CNN spokeswoman said on Saturday that Mr. Morgan had been asked about the accusations and “denied involvement in phone hacking both publicly and privately.”

In 2007, Mr. Morgan was quoted in GQ magazine as saying that the former News of the World reporter Clive Goodman, who went to jail for hacking phones of members of the royal household, had been made “a scapegoat for a widespread practice.” (The News of the World is the newspaper that has been at the heart of the hacking scandal.) Mr. Morgan said on Saturday that he had heard rumors about phone hacking in tabloid newsrooms for years, and “it would now appear those rumors were correct.”

Mr. Hipwell’s accusations are the latest in a series of charges against Mr. Morgan; the newspaper he edited, The Daily Mirror; and its sister tabloids The People and The Sunday Mirror.

This month, Adrian Sanders, a member of Parliament, accused Mr. Morgan’s old newspaper of obtaining a 2002 scoop — that the former England soccer manager Sven-Goran Eriksson had had an affair with a television personality, Ulrika Jonsson — by means of phone hacking. British lawmakers are protected from libel lawsuits while speaking in Parliament.

Last Tuesday, during the questioning of James and Rupert Murdoch as part of the parliamentary committee, Louise Mensch, a Conservative member of Parliament, used the same protection to wonder aloud why lawmakers had not questioned Mr. Morgan. She then suggested — incorrectly, as it turned out — that Mr. Morgan had admitted in a book he wrote that phone hacking had produced big scoops for The Daily Mirror. She appeared to conflate a passage from his book with several posts by the widely read British political blogger Guido Fawkes.

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