Piers Morgan's Twitter profile makes highly apposite reading this morning. Against the background of a picture of Morgan sharing a joke with Nelson Mandela (surely the pinnacle of Morgan's famous-by-association photo album), is a quote which says: “One day you're cock of the walk, the next a feather duster”. He claims that it's his family motto, but it's certainly not a Morgan original. I've heard it used by a few people down the years, and was actually employed in the dialogue of “Mad Max”.
Anyway, we can all agree that Piers Morgan is no longer a creature of rare plumage, having been fired by the American cable network CNN. With some considerable fanfare, he had succeeded the legendary Larry King on the station's flagship interview show at the beginning of 2011. Morgan's gift for self-publicity has been well practised throughout a career that has seen more ups and downs than a Blackpool Big Dipper, but while he himself became more of a public figure in the States, audience figures for his show declined.
Given that Morgan was once frogmarched out of the editor's office at the Daily Mirror by security men, was subject to public opprobrium after he was duped into printing fake pictures of British troops in Iraq, has survived an inquiry into insider trading, and has recently been questioned over phone hacking, I doubt that the loss of his interview show will throw him off balance for long. In fact, the media world has rarely seen a more adroit tightrope walker than Piers Morgan.
I have a fondness for Morgan, which is based on his personal appeal rather than his professional rectitude. I have known him for more than a decade, and I enjoy his quick-wittedness and his humour and admire his indefatigability. He is capable of jaw-dropping braggadocio, and finds it impossible to keep his own counsel. Journalism attracts all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds, the needy, the seedy and the greedy, and, in an increasingly homogenous world, is all the better for it.
But, for Morgan, that was never going to work in America. Up to a point, they are prepared to indulge a Limey big mouth (cf Simon Cowell), but that point was always going to be reached. And it was probably his stand on gun crime, which, as well as being brave and passionately argued, turned him into a truly national celebrity (how's that for personal PR?), that did for him. (His non-stop tweets about Kevin Pietersen and Arsenal FC cannot have struck much of a chord with the American public, either).
Piers Morgan in quotes
Piers Morgan in quotes
1/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“I want to interview the most important people in the world and have everyone in America the next day going, 'Did you see that?'” On Piers Morgan Live, which was recently axed.
2/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“Most of the men that sue in Hollywood are all about 5' 2“. They wake up every day, know they're tiny and feel very angry about it, so they go out and sue people.”
3/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“It was pretty compelling to watch, pretty weird, and it made me gag a few times.” – in his role as Britain’s Got Talent judge
4/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“I'm guilt-ridden about introducing her to Paul McCartney. It was a moment of Cupid madness which cost Sir Paul $50 million, so the least I can do is ban her from the show.” - On banning Heather Mills from Piers Morgan Tonight
5/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“Bill O'Reilly is like a comfortable pair of shimmeringly angry slippers, but you know every night what you're going to get.” – On Bill O’Reilly
6/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“Why do we want someone like Ruth Kelly controlling our children? She's the scariest woman I've ever seen in politics.” - On the British Education Secretary in 2005
7/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“You're an unbeleivably stupid man, aren't you?” Interviewing gun-rights activist Larry Pratt
8/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“There is a type of snobbish, pompous journalist who thinks that the only news that has any validity is war, famine, pestilence or politics. I don't come from that school.”
9/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“To all the ignorant, bigoted transgender community members continuing to abuse me re @janetmock - I'm bored of you now, go away. Thanks.” - On interviewing transgender activist Janet Mock
10/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“I have kind of an edge in me, which will be a little bit different for that time slot but probably necessary to combat the O'Reillys and so on who are making all the noise.”
11/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"Everyone's worst ever Christmas sweater > Team USA uniforms. #RalphLauren #Sochi #OpeningCeremony" - Tweeting ahead of Sochi Olympics... And wondering why he's not that popular in the US.
12/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"To reiterate, 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." - Defending himself against fresh phone-hacking allegations.
13/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"Anything to do with my kids really is the only thing that gets to me. It's the most difficult thing about the job, unquestionably. It's been the most difficult thing to sacrifice." - On not realising he was the editor of The Mirror once and how hypocritical this therefore sounds.
14/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"I wonder if poor old Jeremy Clarkson's little hissy fit today is connected to Top Gear's disintegrating ratings & rumours it may be axed?" - Embarrassing in hindsight, during a Twitter spat with Jeremy Clarkson.
15/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"I never realised how endlessly entertaining Twitter would turn out to be. Oh, the joy when I realised you could tweet Manchester United stars personally, ridiculing them for everything from their dodgy haircuts to offensive swimwear. And even more delicious when they began firing back like enraged Rambos on acid." - On his social media addiction.
16/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"I do blame people. Where were all the people making money out of her when it mattered? Really, where were they? You know, it's just not good enough and they're all going to make millions out of it now she's dead. You know, the album Back to Black is number one… but people let her down." - On passing the blame on from the pressures of the tabloid press for Amy Winehouse's death.
17/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
“Absolutely nobody in the entire United States of America has even a modicum of interest in who I am, but I’m determined to change that." - On what he tried - and failed - to do in the US.
18/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"I fear I am now a victim of 'cisphobia'." - Piers Morgan combats being called 'transphobic' after sensationalised Janet Mock interview... By being massively transphobic.
19/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"@GaryLinekar_ Did you ever actually tackle anyone?" - To which Linekar replied, "Nope never hacked anyone".
20/20 Piers Morgan's Most Pretentious Phrases
"If I wanted a lesson on physical appearance I'd go to @evalongoria not Shrek's ugly brother" - Arguing with Rio Ferdinand on Twitter. Again.
When they signed Morgan, CNN embraced his maverick tendency, so it can hardly have been a surprise when he went tonto about gun crime. Morgan himself admitted that his one-note crusade made him sound like the man in the bar banging on relentlessly about the same thing. And the great American public clearly felt a mixture of ennui and indignation. Who is this little guy from this little country, telling us what's wrong with our constitution? It was, quite literally, a turn-off. He's a feather duster today, all right, but I wouldn't bet against Piers Morgan finding something to crow about again.