J. D. Heyes
For CNN‘s Piers Morgan, trouble just seems to be a calling. But then again, it’s not as if the cheeky British isn’t responsible for much of his own grief.
Throughout his career Morgan seems to have been involved in a litany of ethically questionable issues, but the latest involves charges stemming from his time as editor of Britain’s Daily Mirror newspaper, from 1995-2004. Reuters reported in late December that during this time the paper may have engaged in phone hacking.
According to reports, several British papers that belong to the Trinity Mirror publishing group now face charges of phone hacking from four people, including former England football coach Sven Goran Eriksson.
If journalistic ethics have been breached, look around for Piers Morgan
Indeed, only one other media company has been sued for illegally hacking voicemail messages – that was News Group Newspapers, publishers of the now-shuttered News of the World newspaper, part of News International – the British division of media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation empire (and, perhaps not so coincidentally, a paper that was edited by none other than Piers Morgan from 1995-96).
These latest allegations accuse Mirror group journalists of hacking and listening to the phone messages of Eriksson, Abbie Gibson (former nanny for the family of British soccer star David Beckham), former English footballer Garry Flitcroft and actress Shobna Gulati.
According to court documents the claims allege “breach of confidence and misuse of private information” that relates to the “interception and/or misuse of mobile phone voicemail messages and/or the interception of telephone account.”
The Financial Times reported that no specifics regarding the claims have been filed.
Earlier allegations of hacking have been aimed at other Mirror publications, but publishers of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, and People have always vehemently denied wrongdoing.
Mark Lewis, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said “There might not be a documentary smoking gun, but we will show there is a smoking bullet, the consequence of the actions.”
Morgan, of course, has consistently denied that he ever authorized the phone hacking during his time as editor.
Fired for faking soldier abuse photos
This isn’t the first time Morgan, who loves to sensationalize and embellish, has been at the center of a journalistic ethics controversy. He was sacked from his position as editor of the Daily Mirror in 2004 for faking pictures of British soldiers in Iraq allegedly abusing a prisoner – photos that British Ministry of Defense officials said needlessly endangered the lives of British troops deployed at the time.
According to reports, the paper issued a statement saying it had been the victim of Morgan’s “calculated and malicious hoax,” and that the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment – the unit singled out by the Daily Mirror – had been “vindicated” by Morgan’s dismissal.
“It is just a great pity it has taken so long… and that so much damage has been done in the meantime,” said a spokesman for the unit, Roger Goodman.
Added deputy leader and foreign affairs spokesman, Michael Ancram, “The photos that were published in the Daily Mirror have done great damage to the reputation of our troops, who are serving under some of the most difficult conditions in Iraq.”
The BBC said the photos, which were published by the tabloid paper May 1, 2004, “appeared to show British troops torturing an Iraqi detainee.”
“In one picture a soldier is seen urinating on a hooded man while in another the hooded man is being hit with a rifle in the groin,” the BBC said.
The report noted that Morgan was ever-defiant and unrepentant to the end.
“According to one report Mr. Morgan refused the demand to apologize, was sacked and immediately escorted from the building,” the BBC‘s Nicholas Witchell.
History of journalistic abuses
Here are some additional lowlights in Morgan’s scandalous career:
– Just after taking the Daily Mirror job, he caused widespread outrage with his headline “Achtung Surrender!” the day before England’s Euro 96 clash with Germany;
– Claimed publicly in 2002 that then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife, Cherie, was trying to get him fired;
– Published private letters between the late Princess Diana of Wales and James Hewitt, with whom she was having an affair while still married to Prince Charles;
– Published a photo of Victoria Spencer, the former wife of Earl Spencer – Princess Di’s brother – in a detox clinic, against an established editor’s code of conduct.
Morgan’s latest gaffe came as host of his own CNN program, in which he berated Gun Owners of America head Larry Pratt, calling him an “unbelievably stupid man” for backing armed guards at public schools in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and for acting as a subversive foreign agent in calling for a repeal of the Second Amendment.
Clearly, Piers Morgan is a hack with little regard for journalistic integrity, which makes us wonder how and why CNN would stake its reputation on him.