Blogger claims to have evidence that Piers Morgan knew about phone-hacking

Joe Pompeo
July 26, 2011

Things already weren't looking so good for CNN anchor Piers Morgan's bid to keep his name off the growing list of casualties in the British phone-hacking scandal.

But even though the former tabloid editor has categorically denied ever authorizing or publishing a hack-derived story during his tenure at the U.K.'s Daily Mirror, new evidence to the contrary may have surfaced.

Forbes' Jeff Bercovici reports Tuesday afternoon that Guido Fawkes, the pseudonymous political blogger who previously suggested Morgan knew that an award-winning story he oversaw had been obtained through illegal voicemail-snooping, is in possession of "a recording which contradicts [Morgan's] recent claims." The blogger (real name: Paul Staines) also seemed to confirm to Bercovici that "the recording captures Morgan admitting to paying a third party to hack."

To date, News Corp.'s now-shuttered tabloid News of the World is the only British paper where phone-fishing expeditions by journalists have been proven. But speculation has been mounting that the hacking was in fact more widespread throughout the intensely competitive world of tabloid publishing on Fleet Street. Morgan, who was editor of the Daily Mirror from 1996 to 2004 (he also previously worked at News of the World and The Sun, both owned by News Corp.) has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks thanks to new allegations about his possible role in phone-hacking operations. The Mirror's parent company has launched its own investigation to determine whether the allegations have merit.

Morgan insists they don't.

"I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, nor to my knowledge published any story obtained from the hacking of a phone," Morgan said on CNN last week.

He told the New York Times in a story published Sunday: "I am not aware, and have never seen evidence to suggest otherwise, that any Mirror story published during my tenure was obtained from phone hacking."

Morgan's CNN rep declined to comment on the latest development in the saga. A CNN spokeswoman likewise declined to comment on whether the anchor's position at the network, where he hosts the 9 p.m. hour previously helmed by Larry King, would be put into jeopardy should Staines deliver on his claim of the smoking gun recording.

As of the time of this posting, neither the alleged recording nor a transcript had been posted on the Guido Fawkes blog.

UPDATE: The recording is not quite the smoking gun Staines made it out to be.