The Piers Morgan Tweet Heard ‘Round the World

The short life and fast death of a rumor about the CNN host

If you were doing anything with your time on Thursday other than following every minute development in the rumor mill surrounding CNN host Piers Morgan, you would have missed the news that CNN had suspended Morgan due to questions about his involvement in phone hacking during his time as an editor of a British tabloid.  

You would have missed it because it wasn't true. It was just a rumor in the U.K. that, within minutes, spread among big media types across the Atlantic, and then was proven false. 

It apparently began with a tweet from Twitter user danwooden, who describes himself in his bio on the site as "the fake showbiz editor of the paper formerly known as the News of the World and the poor man's Perez Hilton." The tweet read, "Exclusive: @PiersMorgan suspended from his CNN show while investigations continue following new revelations on alleged phone hacking claims." Then, at approximately 12:22 EDT, Chris Green, an assistant news editor at the Independent, tweeted, “Piers Morgan suspended from CNN, say reports."

From there, things really began to move quickly. Famed Channel 4 News host Jon Snow picked up the news almost instantaneously. “Piers Morgan suspended by CNN over phone hacking . . . the rise and rise, and fall and rise, and fall of Piers Morgan!” Snow tweeted gleefully—without, apparently, having verified the claim with either Morgan or the network. Others started weighing in as well—everyone from Guardian Deputy Editor Ian Katz to Americans like Reuters Social Media Editor Anthony DeRosa and Hotline Executive Editor Josh Kraushaar.

At 12:26 EDT, The New York Times’ Brian Stelter tweeted, “CNN is denying [the claims of Morgan’s suspension].” Reached by Adweek three minutes later, a CNN spokeswoman said, “[The rumors are] not true at all. It was tweeted from a fake account.”

Then Morgan himself weighed in. “Sorry to disappoint you all,” he tweeted. “But I’m afraid poor old @jonsnowC4 got duped by a fake Twitter account. I’ve not been suspended by CNN.” Snow tweeted a retraction immediately, and the storm was over—except for the recriminations.

In follow-up tweets, Morgan wasn't shy about chiding Snow: "I think it's back to the naughty chair for you, Snowy." And Morgan's executive producer, Jonathan Wald, was particularly aggressive in going after those who had retweeted the rumor. In one tweet that he directed at DeRosa and "various quick-fingered bloggers," Wald said, "Today would be a good day to Google Ray Donovan," a reference to the former secretary of labor who, after being acquitted of charges related to his supposed ties with mobsters, asked, "Which office do I go to get my reputation back?" In another tweet, Wald wrote, "If you consider yourself a journalist, call first, then post. Just a thought."