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CNN’s Morgan Denies Phone Hacking While U.K. Tabloid Editor

Dec. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Piers Morgan, the host of CNN’s “Tonight” program and former editor of three British tabloids, told a U.K. inquiry into press ethics that he wasn’t involved in phone hacking when he oversaw the newspapers.

Morgan, who edited Trinity Mirror Plc’s Daily Mirror between 1995 and 2004, denied a lawyer’s suggestion that phone hacking was rampant at the newspaper under his leadership. Morgan spoke at the inquiry today via video link.

“I have no reason or knowledge to believe it was going on,” Morgan said of the practice of improperly accessing voice mails. “Not a single person has made any formal or legal complaint against the Daily Mirror for phone hacking -- not one. So why would you say that?”

Morgan worked more than a year at News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid, where the phone-hacking scandal started, and five years at the company’s Sun newspaper. New York-based News Corp. closed the News of the World and abandoned its bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc in July after the extent of the phone hacking scandal was revealed. Police have arrested about 20 people since January in three probes related to phone and computer hacking and bribery.

The inquiry heard evidence that Morgan had been played a recording of a phone message left by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney for his former wife, Heather Mills. Morgan declined today to say who played the message for him, prompting Judge Brian Leveson, who is overseeing the inquiry, to say he may call Mills as a witness.

Goodman Sympathy

Morgan also said he felt sympathy for former News of the World reporter Clive Goodman, who was jailed for phone-hacking in 2007. At the time, News Corp.’s U.K. unit said the illegal practice was limited to a single “rogue” reporter.

One of the Daily Mirror’s most prominent scoops when Morgan was editor was the 2002 revelation that England soccer team manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson, was having an affair with a television personality. In his 2009 book, “God Bless America,” Morgan said the newspaper got the story after learning of a “message left by the then-England manager on her phone.”

Morgan repeatedly denied suggestions by Robert Jay, the lawyer representing Leveson, that numerous passages from Morgan’s books and interviews over the years showed he was uncritical of phone hacking and other unethical practices, such as paying police for stories. Trinity Mirror has denied such claims.

Morgan ended his testimony by criticizing the inquiry, saying it was one-sided because it only focused on the bad things that tabloids did, rather than the good. He said he felt like a “rock star” being confronted with “worst-ever hits” from his albums.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in London at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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