Former British tabloid editor Piers Morgan has demanded an apology from a lawmaker who made claims about him admitting to phone hacking, at the London hearing which quizzed Rupert Murdoch.
In an angry on-air exchange, Morgan, who is now a celebrity interviewer for US television news network CNN, challenged Member of Parliament Louise Mensch to repeat her claim that he had “boasted” of phone hacking in a book about his tabloid editor days.
She declined to do so, saying she had been covered by parliamentary privilege — which protects her from legal action for anything said inside parliament — a protection which does not apply if she repeats the words elsewhere.
In the committee hearing which grilled Murdoch and his son James over the phone hacking scandal rocking the tycoon’s media empire, Mensch said Morgan had boasted about using a phone hacking “little trick” to win a scoop of the year award.
“That is a former editor of the Daily Mirror being very open about his personal use of phone hacking,” she said in the hearing.
But Morgan, a former editor of the Mirror and of Murdoch’s now-shuttered News of the World, said he had never claimed to have used phone hacking himself in his 2005 book “The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade.”
“I’m amused by her cowardice in refusing to repeat that allegation now that shes not in parliament covered by privilege,” Morgan said in the on-air exchange with Mensch, who was in London.
“She came out with an absolute blatant lie during those proceedings. At no stage in my book or indeed outside of my book have I ever boasted of using phone hacking for any stories.”
And he added: “For the record, in my time at the Mirror and the News of the World I have never hacked a phone, told anybody to hack a phone or published any story based on the hacking of a phone.”
In an increasingly tetchy exchange, during which Mensch said Morgan was a rich man and accused him of threatening her, the former newspaperman added: “I think you should apologize for being a liar.”
He repeatedly bashed her for invoking parliamentary privilege and said Mensch should “show some balls” and repeat her claims outside the hearing.
Asking her to produce evidence to back her claim, he said: “If there is no evidence for that, are you going to publicly apologize to me, and to CNN right now for such an outrageous lie?”
“I feel no need whatsoever to apologize,” said the lawmaker.