Blotchy Gong Show revivalist and CNN host Piers Morgan came off looking good in his confrontation with a British MP who accused him—falsely, as it turns out—on Tuesday of having confessed in his memoir to phone hacking while he was editor of the Daily Mirror. So we decided to catalog all the other—far more credible—indications that hacking went on under his nose during his tabloid days and...not so good! Let's have a look.
As British blogger Guido Fawkes noted today, in 2006 former Daily Mirror reporter James Hipwell told the Guardian unequivocally that hacking went on during his time at the paper—which overlapped entirely with Morgan's tenure as editor. "Many of the Daily Mirror's stories would come from hacking into a celebrity's voicemail," Hipwell told the Guardian. Among the frequent targets, Hipwell said, were members of the Spice Girls: "On one occasion, a Mirror journalist deleted a voicemail message from one of the Spice Girls' phones to stop his rival on the Sun getting hold of it, according to Hipwell."
Hipwell also said in the 2006 interview that Morgan presided over a story about TV host Ulrika Jonsson that was derived from hacking her voicemails. (Other accounts of that story suggest it was News of the World that did the hacking, and the the Daily Mirror simply stole it.) Hipwell, it should be noted, was fired from the Mirror in 2000 over accusations that he invested in a company whose stock he was promoting in a business column. He was eventually jailed for stock manipulation. Morgan was investing in the same company, but for some reason he didn't get fired.
In 2002, Morgan appeared at an awards event with his newspaper nemesis Dominic Mohan, then the showbiz editor of The Sun. The event was sponsored by Vodafone. At one point during the ceremonies, Mohan publicly thanked Vodafone for sponsoring the event and for "Vodafone's lack of security," to which he ascribed all of the Mirror's entertainment scoops. This was long before the hacking scandal became widely known in 2005. Mohan's remark was clearly intended as a dig against a rival, but true or not it casts doubt on Morgan's coy claim that all he knows of phone hacking is that someone once told him that it was possible. In 2002, he had a reputation for relying on it.
Former Daily Mirror reporter Gary Jones was secretly recorded by British police telling private investigator Jonathan Rees—an accused (and acquitted) axe murderer at the heart of the hacking scandal who is accused of everything from voicemail snooping to conducting "burglaries of public figures to steal material for newspapers"—that "some of what he was doing for the Mirror was illegal." Jones was employed by the Mirror as a reporter for the entirety of Morgan's tenure there.
London mayor Boris Johnson, a former reporter, recently told Newsweek that the scandal will soon extend to Morgan's old haunting ground: "I'd be amazed if these papers weren't engaged in similar practices. Including the Daily Mirror and maybe others as well."
To sum up, that's two independent direct accusations of hacking—one from a former employee and one from an alleged victim—one kidding-on-the-square public accusation from a competitor, one secretly taped confession from an employee of Morgan's that the Mirror was hiring a private investigator to break the law, and one unsubstantiated accusation from the mayor of London.
Morgan did not respond to an e-mail, and a CNN publicist declined to comment.