CNN host and former News of the World editor Piers Morgan has been silent on the phone-hacking scandal that has led to the closure of his former paper and imperiled the media empire of his old boss, Rupert Murdoch. He broke that silence last night during a segment with Vanity Fair contributing editor Vicky Ward, formerly a reporter at the Murdoch-owned New York Post. In the process, Morgan somehow managing to defend Murdoch against an on-going "witch hunt" by members of the press, profess his own innocence, and issue a quasi-apology for any illegal behavior that may or may not have occurred during his time as a Fleet Street tabloid boss.
Under the circumstances, it's tough to imagine Morgan doing better. The Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove's analysis that "Not since Eliot Spitzer found himself awkwardly anchoring a segment on Rep. Anthony Weiner’s sexting has a CNN host been so compromised and conflicted" is spot on. Morgan's two successors as News of the World editor--Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson--have both been arrested. Members of the House of Commons are calling on Morgan to be questioned. British political blog Guido Fawkes, meanwhile, says Morgan "knew" a 2002 scoop about an affair between reality TV performer Ulrika Jonnson and Sven-Goran Eriksson, who at the time was the manager England's national soccer team, was obtained by hacking into Jonsson's voicemail. That allegedly happened at The Daily Mirror, the non-Murdoch tabloid Morgan edited from 1995 to 2004 after leaving News of the World.
Morgan appeared to double-down on his Murdoch support this morning, tweeting "Rupert called me every week for 18 [months]--rarely asked about anything but what stories we had that week."
Morgan first used the "witch hunt" line to describe the treatment of Murdoch during an appearance last week on CBS daytime show The Talk. When pressed for an explanation about why he wasn't going in for "Murdoch bashing," Morgan explained, "I've always admired him. He gave me my break in journalism. He made me editor of [News of the World] when I was 28-years-old."