Readers have asked why I was so dismissive and, frankly, rude toward CNN's Piers Morgan yesterday. I think I was out-of-bounds in retrospect, perhaps a brief burst of invective after two weeks' vacating repression. What I should have said was that I don't know Mr Morgan but have found him almost unwatchable on CNN. There's a very modern British Simon Cowell type smugness and self-satisfaction about his TV persona, alternately fellating celebrity while condescending to it. But I apologize for my intemperance. It is worth noting, however, that I have found very few people in Britain who take his holier-than-now reminiscences of his own time at the News of the Screws terribly seriously. Morgan is now robustly defending himself against accusations that he was up to his neck in tabloid sleaze. Infamous UK blogger Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes) is, er, skeptical:
James “Scottie” Scott, the Daily Mirror’s showbiz reporter [in 2002], was listening into Ulrika Jonsson’s voicemails when he was flummoxed by messages in her native Swedish. As fortune would have it, he was able to get a half-Swedish Mirror secretary to translate the mysterious voicemails. It was clear from the translations that the couple were having an affair. The male voice sounded just like the then England football manager Sven Goran Eriksson. The paper put the allegation to the sexy Swedish shaggers and they coughed to the truth of the allegation. It broke on April 19, 2002.
The paper’s editor at the time, one Piers Morgan, was receiving flak for the fact that his 3AM Girls gossip section was dire rubbish and lacked any bite compared to Morgan’s old Bizarre column in News International’s Sun. Morgan decided to let 3AM Girl Jessica Callan break the illegally obtained story under her byline in order to try and rid the column of its banal reputation.
The story went on to win "Scoop of the Year" at the British Press Awards, and Piers allegedly silenced Scottie by sending him on a pricey holiday as the awards ceremony neared. Yesterday the hacking allegations intensified when a British MP accused Morgan of boasting about the practice in his memoir, but that charge seems dubious. It doesn't sound like boasting to me, but it sure doesn't sound like someone who would be shocked, shocked to learn about phone hacking in the British tabloid press. From the 2005 book:
Apparently if you don't change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and, if you don't answer, tap in the standard four digit code to hear all your messages. I'll change mine just in case, but it makes me wonder how many public figures and celebrities are aware of this little trick.
And how many editors of the News Of The World.