Ever since he left The Daily Mirror under a cloud in 2004, Piers Morgan has gone to some lengths to put his newspaper days behind him. As if to emphasise his credentials as a transatlantic chatshow host, he gave his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry via a videolink from Los Angeles.
But try as he might, the former showbusiness gossip columnist who has reinvented himself as CNN’s main weapon in America’s rating wars has yet to shrug off the miasma of allegations generated by the News of the World phone hacking scandal.
While his former employers at Rupert Murdoch’s News International have borne the brunt of the storm over illegal newsgathering, Morgan and Trinity Mirror have had to deal with regular jibes that their titles also indulged in shady practices.
During his evidence to Leveson, Morgan repeated his strenuous denials of having had any knowledge or experience of voicemail interception.
This summer, he emphasised the point on his own CNN show, saying: “For the record, in my time at The Mirror and the News of the World, I have never hacked a phone, told anybody to hack a phone, nor to my knowledge published any story obtained from the hacking of a phone.”
Ironically, many of the claims that resurface against Morgan owe their origin to the man himself. In his autobiography, The Insider, the former editor details how an unnamed individual described to him the practice of hacking phones in 2001 and another incident in April 2000 in which the actress Kate Winslet asked him how he had got hold of a new phone number for her.
During the Leveson Inquiry, Morgan was asked about a lunch in 2002 with television presenter Ulrika Jonsson and Jeremy Paxman in which the BBC Newsnight presenter said the newspaperman had shown him how to prevent his voicemails being eavesdropped and implied he knew the contents of conversations between Jonsson and then England football manager Sven Goran Eriksson. Morgan laughed off Paxman’s claims, saying he could not recall details.
Mr Morgan did not comment on the latest phone hacking claims against Trinity Mirror. His Twitter account, normally a source of prolific tweets, was silent today.