Phone hacking: Paxman turns up heat on Piers Morgan
Former Mirror editor 'told guests about hacking over dinner'
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Thursday 24 May 2012
Piers Morgan faced renewed questions about his knowledge of phone hacking last night after the BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman claimed the former Daily Mirror editor taught him how to hack a mobile phone.
Mr Paxman, the BBC Newsnight anchor, said that Mr Morgan gave him a lesson in how to hack into mobile phone voicemails during a lunch in 2002 at the Mirror Group's offices in Canary Wharf.
The Leveson Inquiry has not ruled out recalling Mr Morgan, who has already given evidence, to explain himself. Mr Morgan, now a television anchorman in the United States, has said he never hacked a phone, ordered anyone to hack or been aware of it happening on his watch.
Mr Morgan did concede when appearing at the inquiry in December that in 2002 he might have warned the chief executive of British Telecom to tell his customers to take greater care of their mobile phone passwords. "I don't recall that... since I'd been warned, it is possible, yeah," Mr Morgan said.
Giving evidence to the inquiry into press standards yesterday, Mr Paxman described the lunch, which was hosted by the former Mirror chairman, Sir Victor Blank. It was attended by the retail billionaire, Sir Philip Green, and the television star Ulrika Jonsson, once the girlfriend of the former England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Mr Paxman – who said he remembered the occasion well because he kept wondering why he had been invited – was seated next to Mr Morgan and opposite Ms Jonsson.
In exchanges with the Swedish television star, Mr Morgan teased her about what happened in conversations between her and Mr Eriksson. The descriptions were delivered in a mock-Swedish accent. Mr Morgan's tone was described as "bullying".
Mr Paxman said the Daily Mirror editor turned to him and asked: "Have you got a mobile phone?" Having said he did, Mr Morgan then asked about the "security setting on the message bit".
Mr Morgan then explained there was a way to access people's messages by going to the "factory default setting" and that if Mr Paxman did not put in a security code then "you're a fool". Mr Paxman said he did not know if the Mirror editor was making it up or making conversation, but added: "This was clearly something that he was familiar with."
Shortly after Mr Paxman completed his evidence, Mr Morgan tweeted from the US, writing: "Right – that's the last time I'm inviting Jeremy Paxman to lunch. Ungrateful little wretch."
Last night an inquiry source said Lord Justice Leveson had the right to recall whomever he wished to answer questions about emerging details at the inquiry's hearings.
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