As new allegations of phone hacking swirl around CNN primetime host Piers Morgan, he may yet come to regret the swashbuckling hubris of his performance at the DCMS select committee in 2003. Ranging much further than the behaviour of his own red top, the then Mirror editor gave a forceful defence of the entire newspaper industry over invasions of privacy. Political Scrapbook has the footage.
Then seven years into his tenure as editor, Morgan told MPs that the press should be “congratulated” on its ethical approach to privacy issues, characterising the questioning as a “ritual bollocking”. Committee chair Gerald Kaufman stepped in several times to reprimand Morgan for his “discourteousy”.
In a bravodo-fuelled performance, Morgan claimed unwisely that the press behaved “with sensitivity” towards war widows and “absolutely responsibly” towards Princes William and Harry. His former paper the News of the World was already targeting the phones of dead soldiers’ families and would be caught bugging royals just two years later.
What may really land Morgan in hot water, however, are claims relating to his personal knowledge of privacy:
“In terms of ordinary people, I just don’t believe that they’re intruded in an unjustified way. I don’t see evidence that that happens at the Mirror. I didn’t see evidence that that happened on the other papers that I’ve worked on.”
“If there are particular grievances about how the Daily Mirror has behaved, and I say that our record in this area is exemplary, exemplary. I don’t say this because we somehow got away with this, I say this because we operate the [PCC] Code of Practice effectively and seriously.”
The DCMS select committee will meet tomorrow to discuss recalling five people who gave evidence recently, including James Murdoch. Scrapbook is sure that Piers will be happy to clarify his previous outbursts in light of recent developments. From the sounds of things he may soon have a lot more free time on his hands.
Better get those bags packed.