Recording emerges of Piers Morgan appearing to admit use of hacked stories

UPDATE – More Piers Morgan quotes are now emerging giving growing evidence to the idea that he was aware of hacking and that one of his biggest journalist scoops (the Sven Goran Eriksson and Ulrika Jonsson affair) might have been based on phone hacking (See Update Below). Morgan has also hit back on Twitter saying those making accusations are smearing him.

The phone hacking scandal is lapping ever closer to the feet of CNN host Piers Morgan after a recording given to a BBC programme two years ago has come to light in which the former Daily Mirror editor appears to admit using stories based on phone hacking and other practices employed by private investigators of the kind employed by the News of the World.

Morgan, who was appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, told presenter Kirsty Young stories, obtained by third parties investigators, were published during his time as a tabloid editor.

The recording emerges after a week in which Morgan has spent fighting off allegations of phone hacking levelled at him by the Conservative MP Louise Mensch. Ironically the accusations she made were inaccurate after Mensch (who is also a chick lit writer) misquoted Morgan from his tabloid memoir The Insider.

However, since then several former Mirror journalists have stepped forward to say that phone tapping was widespread at Trinity Mirror. With one, the disgraced former Daily Mirror finance journalist, James Hipwell, saying it was “endemic” and “inconceivable” that Morgan didn’t know.

On the back of that, yesterday, Trinity Mirror, the Mirror publisher, launched an investigation into its editorial practices. It said this was not about phone hacking, but the timing has led most commentators to suggest that this is exactly what its investigation is looking at.

Today’s revelations pile more pressure on embattled Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey who has seen the company’s share price slip amid the hacking allegations.

It was conceivable that Morgan didn’t know

It now appears that it was, indeed, inconceivable that Morgan did not know as he now appears to have admitted the use of such practices throwing a spanner in his credibility and putting his CNN Tonight position under pressure.

His admission to knowing that it took place and using stories based upon hacking comes in stark contrast to his statement last week:

“For the record, in my time at the News of the World and the Mirror, I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, or published any stories based on the hacking of a phone,” he said on CNN.

Now read what he told Kirtsy Young in June 2009

Young: “What about this nice middle-class boy, who would have to be dealing with, I mean essentially people who rake through bins for a living, people who tap people’s phones, people who take secret photographs, who do all that nasty down-in-the-gutter stuff. How did you feel about that?”

Morgan replied: “To be honest, let’s put that in perspective as well. Not a lot of that went on. A lot of it was done by third parties rather than the staff themselves. That’s not to defend it, because obviously you were running the results of their work.

“I’m quite happy to be parked in the corner of tabloid beast and to have to sit here defending all these things I used to get up to, and I make no pretence about the stuff we used to do.

“I simply say the net of people doing it was very wide, and certainly encompassed the high and low end of the supposed newspaper market.”

He seems to imply that some staff did engage in such practices although clearly he is saying that private investigators like the jailed Glenn Mulcaire who worked for the News of the World did the work. And although he doesn’t specifically say the Mirror used phone hacked stories he does imply it.

Morgan has defended his Desert Island comments and told The Daily Beast that there was nothing inconsistent in his two-year-old remarks and the comments he made on CNN in the past week.

“There is no contradiction between my comments on Kirsty Young’s Desert Island Discs show and my unequivocal statements with regard to phone-hacking. Millions of people heard these comments when I first made them in 2009 on one of the BBC’s longest-running radio shows, and none deduced that I was admitting to, or condoning illegal reporting activity.

“Kirsty asked me a fairly lengthy question about how I felt dealing with people operating at the sharp end of investigative journalism. My answer was not specific to any of the numerous examples she gave, but a general observation about tabloid newspaper reporters and private investigators. As I have said before, 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.

Nothing inconsistent? The two statements seem completely at odds.

Listen to Morgan’s Desert Island remarks

UPDATE – Was Morgan scoop based on a hack?

The Telegraph has republished a quote attributed to Morgan from the Press Gazette in 2007 when talking about the imprisonment of former News of the World’s royal editor, Clive Goodman, for phone hacking:

“As for Clive Goodman, I feel a lot of sympathy for a man who has been the convenient fall guy for an investigative practice that everyone knows was going on at almost every paper in Fleet Street for years,” Morgan told Press Gazette in an interview in 2007.

On top of that Guido Fawkes has published a page from Morgan’s 2009 book God Bless America: Misadventures of a Big Mouth Brit: Diaries of an Englishman in the Land of the Free.

In it Morgan appears to suggest that the Mirror’s scoop story about the affair between then England football manager Sven Goran Eriksson and TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson was based on phone hacking (it was serialised in the Daily Mail, where you can also see this quote:

“Given that it was the Daily Mirror, under my editorship, which exposed Sven’s fling with Ulrika Jonsson after learning of a similar message left by the then England manager on her phone, I can only hope and pray that the gutter press (ha ha) aren’t hacking into my mobile now…”

This Guido concludes is evidence that Morgan accepted stories to run under his watch that had been obtained by hacking: “It is over Piers, ‘fess up son. It is time for that live on CNN mea culpa…”.

Guido had previous said that” Morgan knew his award winning scoop was hacked.

Obviously in all of this there is no direct evidence other than these quotes, which as some have pointed out are ambiguous, but there doesn’t seem any denying now that the practice was widespread.