The president of CNN's U.S. operations, Ken Jautz, says he’s standing by prime-time host Piers Morgan.
In an interview with Adweek, Jautz, who took over the network in late September a few weeks after Morgan was announced as Larry King’s replacement in prime time, said, “We were very familiar with his background, and several people talked to him about [his tabloid background]." Jautz added that Morgan “has been entirely consistent in his public statements and very firm in his denials, and we do not believe there’s any impact on the show” from the recent controversy.
Asked whether CNN would keep Morgan on the air were the controversy to expand into an actual criminal inquiry, Jautz declined to comment, saying, “I’m certainly not going to deal with a hypothetical.”
Jautz’s comments, in a wide-ranging interview about CNN's prime-time lineup, came the same day a number of members of Parliament, both liberal and conservative, were quoted in British press outlets calling for Morgan to return to the U.K. to answer questions about whether he was involved in the hacking scandal.
Jautz’s remarks also came a day after Morgan responded to allegations made by Paul McCartney’s ex-wife, Heather Mills, that a journalist working for the company that owns the Daily Mirror admitted to having hacked her voicemail in 2001 while Morgan was editor of that tabloid. In his statement Wednesday, which was issued by CNN, Morgan described Mills’ accusations as “extravagant,” and said, “I have no knowledge of any conversation any executive from other newspapers at Trinity Mirror may or may not have had with Heather Mills.”
Jautz also addressed the fact that Morgan had publicly positioned himself as something of a staunch defender of the Murdochs—a fairly unique stance for a CNN host. “These are his opinions based on his experiences with them. And he has his own opinions,” said Jautz, who added that he was comfortable with some on-air talent at CNN expressing opinions “so long as it's based on their own experience, on their reporting, on fact, and not on ideology.”
Asked whether he or CNN had had a reaction to the substance of the allegations, which center on questions surrounding whether any hacking took place under Morgan during his tenure as a tabloid editor in England, Jautz responded, “If Piers Morgan is asked about things that happened in his past, it’s up to Piers Morgan to respond to those things.”