As more than a dozen journalists have been arrested in the investigation into Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and their alleged phone hacking, CNN’s Piers Morgan was called on to testify via video link from the U.S. Tuesday (Dec. 20).
The AP reports that the main topic of testimony was about comments Morgan made in a 2006 news article he wrote for the Daily Mail, in which Morgan said he was played a phone message left by Paul McCartney for then-wife Heather Mills.
Mills has said there is no way Morgan could have obtained that message in an honest way, and when Morgan was pressed by the inquiry chief Lord Justice Brian Leveson to provide evidence that he did obtain the message legally, Morgan could not do so.
Before he became a U.S. personality, Morgan ran two British tabloids, including Murdoch’s News of the World and then its rival, the Daily Mirror. The fact that the inquiry focused on Morgan’s time at the Daily Mirror perhaps indicates that the hacking was not confined to journalists working for News Corp.
Morgan did acknowledge that he used Benji “the Binman” Pelham, a freelancer whose specialty was raking through celebrities’ trash (hence the nickname). Morgan admitted Pelham’s methods are unethical, though not illegal – and while we can’t say for sure about British laws, under U.S. law Morgan is correct. Trash put out by the curb is fair game.
Meanwhile, News Corp. has announced settlements with seven of the figures victimized by the phone hacking scandal. The company has settled with Princess Diana’s former lover James Hewitt, lawmaker Mark Oaten, TV anchor Ulrika Jonsson, model Abi Titmuss, London transit bombings rescuer Paul Dadge, agent Michelle Milburn and Calum Best, the son of soccer legend George Best. The amounts of the settlements were not disclosed.