Did Piers Morgan Pay for Phone Hacking? CNN Talk Show Host in Hot Seat

| by Michael Allen

Earlier this week, British blogger Paul Staines, who blogs under the name Guido Fawkes, claimed that CNN's Piers Morgan was complicit in phone hacking while serving as the editor of the Daily Mirror, a popular British tabloid.

Staines claims he has a voice recording to prove his claim, which Morgan denied in the New York Times over the weekend: “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. 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.”

However, James Hipwell, a former journalist at the Daily Mirrror, claimed that the phone hacking practice was "endemic" at the newspaper during his time there, which would include the Piers Morgan years. Hipwell said that he would be willing to testify to the investigating authorities.

Morgan challenged Hipwell’s credibility, claiming that Hipwell 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.

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.” Hipwell “lied repeatedly during the various investigations into the scandal, both about me and about other colleagues,” Morgan said. “He is not a credible witness.”

Hipwell told the New York Times that his lawyers thought his case and Morgan's had been "identical" and that they were surprised that Morgan was cleared. "No one has got to the bottom of why this happened," he said.

Asked if CNN had pressed him for assurances that he was not involved in phone hacking, Morgan replied, “My unequivocal statements on this matter speak for themselves.” A CNN spokeswoman said on Saturday that Morgan had been asked about the accusations and “denied involvement in phone hacking both publicly and privately.”

In 2007, 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.” 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.”

The hacking story was originally broken by The Guardian reporter Nick Davies, who has recently signed a book deal to write an authoritative account of the News Corp. scandal. The book, to be titled "Hack Attack: How the Truth Caught up with the World's Most Powerful Man," will be published in the fall of 2012.

The scandal exploded earlier this month with revelations that journalists at the News of the World tabloid hacked the phone of a 13-year-old murder victim while police were still searching for her. The 168-year-old paper was subsequently closed by owner Rupert Murdoch. Ten people have been arrested so far in the scandal.