Jon Snow, the presenter of Channel 4 News, yesterday accused the publishers of the Daily Mail of having a "pernicious", "insidious" and "mendacious" agenda in the way they attacked public figures.
The journalist launched the outspoken attack at the Leveson Inquiry during a wider discussion on the print media "demonising" politicians.
Mr Snow included no mention of the Mail titles in his written statement to the inquiry, and made clear at the beginning of his evidence that what he was about to say was "personal".
Mr Snow, the lead presenter of Channel 4's evening news programme since 1989, is regarded as having a centre-left perspective on politics and has been the subject of several Daily Mail stories over the years.
He told the inquiry that "enormous emphasis" had so far been placed on the behaviour of News International, but claimed that Associated "were at least if not more pernicious". He then added "they [Associated] will go after me for saying so".
In wide ranging comparisons between television and print news coverage, Mr Snow complained that in Britain's tabloid press "the headline is big, the opinion is strong and the news is weak". As he left the courtroom, Mr Snow turned to the press benches and asked: "Do you think I'll get spanked for that?"
Earlier, Lord Justice Leveson used a 20-minute opening statement to deny his inquiry had a "hidden agenda" to inhibit the freedom of the press.
The judge's comments centred on a headline in the Mail on Sunday two weeks ago which claimed he had "threatened to resign" from his own inquiry during an "angry" telephone call to Downing Street. Leveson confirmed that in February he had called the Cabinet Secretary following a speech by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, which claimed the inquiry was causing a "chilling effect" on freedom of expression.
With David Cameron failing to criticise Mr Gove's comments during Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons the following day, Leveson said he was "concerned about the perception that the inquiry was being undermined while it was taking place." He added that he felt it "necessary and appropriate" to call Downing Street. "I received the assurance that no fixed view had been formed, " he said. The inquiry also heard yesterday from leading political journalists including Andrew Grice, Political Editor of The Independent.