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CNN Keeping Mum About Piers Morgan Hacking Allegations

Network hasn't covered story about its anchor

Piers Morgan | Photo: John Shearer/WireImage via Getty

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CNN hasn't been shy about covering the phone hacking related woes of News Corp., parent of rival news network Fox News. It's devoted more than 100 segments to the scandal, according to liberal press watchdog Media Matters. But there’s one angle the network hasn’t gone anywhere near yet: questions concerning CNN prime-time host Piers Morgan’s previous life as a tabloid editor, and allegations that, when he ran the U.K.'s Mirror from 1995-2004, he may have approved of some hacking of his own. (Morgan also served as editor of the News of the World, the now-defunct paper at the center of the scandal.)

Adweek asked CNN to confirm that so far, no airtime has been dedicated to reporting the Morgan-related side of the hacking story. A spokesperson confirmed as much, saying that the network hasn’t covered the matter because Morgan has not been officially called to testify in England.

As for the hacking allegations themselves, in a statement provided to Adweek, CNN referred to an interview Morgan gave on the CBS daytime program The Talk on Monday, in which Morgan said, “The papers I edited always operated within the law.”

“Piers Morgan and his former employer, [Mirror parent company Trinity Mirror], have both addressed the allegations in recent weeks,” a CNN spokesperson said.

For his part, Morgan has been sounding a fairly sympathetic note about Murdoch, telling hosts at The Talk, "I'm not going to join the Murdoch bashing. I’ve always been a big admirer of his. He gave me my first break in journalism. He made me editor of [News of the World] when I was 28 years old.” Morgan reiterated the point later, telling British news service ITN, “I’m certainly not going to join the queue to lambast [Murdoch] personally for this.”

Morgan was dragged into the story last week, when MP Adrian Sanders accused the Mirror of having intercepted voicemails under Morgan’s editorship, in pursuit of a story about Swedish soccer team manager Sven-Goran Erikkson’s affair with British TV personality Ulrika Jonsson.

A widely read sensationalist British blog called Guido Fawkes was the first to note this; it has since reported that a number of other members of Parliament have started calling for Morgan to appear before a government inquiry into the voicemail hacking scandal. In a separate post, the blog accused Morgan of having approved the story of Erikkson’s affair at the Mirror, with full knowledge of the hacking. The site also excerpted a passage from Morgan’s 2005 book The Insider, in which Morgan spoke in broad terms of phone-tapping practices (though he stopped short of acknowledging any malfeasance on his part). “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,” the blog quoted Morgan as writing.

Since then, TVNewser has confirmed that BBC reporters are looking into the suggestion that, during Morgan's tenure as editor, Mirror reporters employed tactics similar to those used at News of the World. The controversy is big enough that the Mirror’s parent company issued a denial that it had engaged in any illegal information gathering, with a spokesperson for the company saying, “Trinity Mirror's position is clear. Our journalists work within the criminal law and the PCC [Press Complaints Commission] code of conduct.”