Updated (1:20 p.m.): Nearly six months after Heather Mills alleged he had listened to her voice mail, former News of the World editor, current CNN host and now former America's Got Talent judge Piers Morgan will "explain himself" via video to the Leveson Inquiry next week. Morgan's spokesperson, Megan McPartland, confirmed that Morgan will soon appear to give evidence to Lord Justice Leveson, who's leading the phone hacking investigation, after the British blogger who goes by Guido Fawkes reported that the hearing is scheduled for the week of December 19. She directed us to confirm the exact date and whether Morgan would appear in person before the London-based inquiry committee, though CNN later confirmed that the hearing would be next week and Morgan would participate remotely from Los Angeles. "Leveson has not confirmed a specific date," McPartland told The Atlantic Wire. We've reached out to Leveson to do just that and will update you when we hear back.
Morgan's imminent appearance is a big deal for one big reason: Morgan served as an editor for Rupert Murdoch's News of the World from 1994 to 1995 and the Daily Mirror from 1995 to 2004, but he denies having any knowledge of phone hacking happening under his watch. Transitioning to a respected CNN host has meant bolstering his credibility. He's ditching the reality show gig. On Thursday morning, NBC announced that Howard Stern would replace him as a judge for America's Got Talent since Morgan wanted to focus on other projects because "juggling’s harder than it looks."
But Morgan has also been trying to stay out of the phone hacking scandal that has engulfed the British newspaper world this year. Three weeks ago, Leveson turned his question cannon toward Morgan and indicated that it was time the former tabloid editor answer to the accusation that've been stacking up for months.
Morgan has insisted in the past, "For the record, in my time at the News of the World and the Mirror, I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, or published any stories based on the hacking of a phone." But that steadfast, and carefully worded, denial contradicts allegations from Heather Mills that Morgan, while editing the Mirror, listened to a stolen voicemail message she'd left for her then-husband Paul McCartney. Morgan has called Mills' accusations "unsubstantiated". However, looking deeper into what Morgan's said about phone hacking in the past suggests that he was well aware of the practice being quite common in general, even if he's denied ever specifically doing it. "Loads of newspaper journalists were doing it. Clive Goodman, the NotW reporter, has been made the scapegoat for a very widespread practice," Morgan told Naomi Campbell in a February GQ interview. Of course, Morgan admitting to knowing about phone hacking and having participated in it are not synonymous, but his statement to Campbell and Mills's allegations have made British investigators very wary of his trustworthiness. It’s not good enough for Piers Morgan just to say he’s always stayed within the law," deputy leader of the Labour party Harriet Harman said in August. "There are questions about what happened with Heather Mills’ phone messages that he needs to answer."
And so he will. If not next week, then very soon. Until then, courtesy of Guido Fawkes, we present a long list of the troubling evidence that Morgan not only knew about phone hacking, he enabled the practice while working on Fleet Street and has been lying about it ever since.