Embattled TV host Piers Morgan is in danger of being dragged further into the Murdoch phone hacking scandal, as his own words are again coming back to haunt him for the second time in two weeks.
|Paul McCartney and Piers Morgan in their younger days, before McCartney became a Sir and Morgan became a CNN host. Ironically, Morgan reportedly introduced McCartney to Heather Mills. (Getty Images Archive Photo)
Now, a leading lawmaker in London is calling for Larry King’s replacement on CNN to be brought before the same parliamentary committee that questioned media mogul Rupert Murdoch last month.
The new accusations come from Paul McCartney’s former wife Heather Mills. She told the BBC that a senior editorial executive at Daily Mirror, which Morgan was then editing, had read her parts of a message the former Beatle had left for her in 2001, while they were dating.
Morgan acknowledged hearing the tape in a newspaper article he wrote in 2006. “At one stage I was played a tape of a message Paul had left for Heather on her mobile phone," he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.
"It was heartbreaking. The couple had clearly had a tiff. He sounded lonely, miserable and desperate, and even sang 'We Can Work It Out' into the answer phone."
But on Wednesday, he once again denied that he or anyone working for him at the two tabloids he edited in England before moving to the United States had ever hacked into phones. And he attacked Mills, saying she has a history of making “somewhat extravagant claims.”
He did not say how he came to hear the tape but said, “What I can say and have knowledge of is that Sir Paul McCartney asserted that Heather Mills illegally intercepted his telephones, and leaked confidential material to the media. This is well documented, and was stated in their divorce case.”
Harriet Harman, deputy leader of Britain’s opposition Labor Party, said it is time to get to the bottom of the allegations against Morgan and stop relying on his word.
"It is not good enough for him to say — or for someone to say on his behalf — 'I always complied with the law,’” Harman said. “He's got to answer now we've got these allegations from Heather Mills."
According to Mills, a journalist, who she said was not Morgan, called her and started to read back parts of the message McCartney had left her after they had had an argument.
Mills said she challenged the man, saying, "You've obviously hacked my phone and if you do anything with this story . . . I'll go to the police." She said he told her, "OK, OK, yeah, we did hear it on your voice messages. I won't run it."
Morgan had to defend himself against his own words last month. In his book “God Bless America,” he wrote of a story that his Daily Mirror had written about an affair between the coach of England’s national soccer squad and a minor TV personality “after learning of a . . . message left . . . on her phone.”
And in a radio interview in England, he said phone hacking and other dubious tabloid practices were carried out “by third parties rather than the staff themselves. That’s not to defend it, because obviously (we) were running the results of their work.”
John Whittingdale, chairman of the committee that questioned Murdoch and his son James last month, said there are no plans to bring Morgan before the committee, but he said the police should question Morgan.
Another committee member, Therese Coffey also called for police to interview Morgan. “It would help everybody, including himself and this investigation, if he was able to say more about why he wrote what he did in 2006," she said.
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