Phone hacking? What The Americans wanted to know was how he came to lose his job at the Daily Mirror, says the Wall Street Journal. And then, would he pay for interviews?
Phone hacking was barely an issue last year when Piers was questioned by CNN top brass. Instead the questions he faced surrounded his firing from the Mirror in 2004, the Wall Street Journal reported. Piers lost his job after the Mirror published photographs which turned out to be fakes of Iraqis being abused by British soldiers .
The WSJ, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, said CNN was standing by its television host amid "growing media scrutiny over his past as a tabloid editor in Britain". CNN executives "carefully read his books and thoroughly questioned him about his journalistic habits and ethics," the Journal said, quoting "a person close to the network." However, since Piers, already known as a judge on America's Got Talent, was to be doing interviews, rather than report breaking news, the discussion centred on how he would book guests for the CNN show. "CNN wanted to make sure that he would never pay for interviews - and were satisfied with his answers," said the WSJ. "He wasn't hired to be a news anchor or correspondent; he was being hired as a personality. That dictated the standards. He came off as a guy who had been chastened by his past and as someone who had the intelligence to grow and learn from it," a person close to the network told the Journal. Piers Morgan edited the News of the World for 18 months in the 1990s, after landing the job at 28. He then edited the Daily Mirror from 1995 to 2004 for Trinity Mirror. That company has called allegations of phone hacking at the Mirror "totally unsubstantiated." Last week, as the phone hacking row rolled on in Britain, it was revealed that in 2009 on the BBC's Desert Island Discs Morgan was asked by interviewer Kirsty Young about people raking through garbage bins and tapping phones for tabloid newspapers. "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," he said. "I make no pretence about the stuff we used to do," he added to Kirsty, speaking generally about Britain's 'red tops'." I simply say the net of people doing it was very wide and certainly encompassed the high and low end of the supposed newspaper market." Piers, now 46, has laid it on the line , however,"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." On Twitter last week , he said "I don't mind being wrongly smeared with all this Hackgate stuff. I'd just rather it wasn't done by liars, druggie ex-bankrupts and conmen." On Friday Tory MP Louise Mensch apologised to Mr. Morgan for misquoting his book The Insider and using it to wrongly accuse him of admitting to hacking phones - a charge which led to the CNN anchor getting a lot of heat. A spokeswoman for CNN said, "Piers Morgan has been firm and specific in his denial, and we continue to be supportive of his programme ." The Wall Street Journal said that, according to people close to CNN, there had been "ongoing discussion about the situation internally at the network, and Mr. Morgan has repeatedly reassured executives that he never hacked a phone or did anything illegal." Politico.com, commenting on the WSJ story, said this afternoon, "Piers Morgan has been mostly successful in resisting the forces that have tried to drag him into the phone-hacking scandal, issuing denials that he was involved in hacking when he ran the News of the World or the Daily Mirror, and winning an apology from a British MP who mischaracterised what was in his book." They added ," But this is still something that has folks at CNN on the edge of their seats, clearly."