Authors: Emily Herbert
Celia rose above it all, however. She and Piers were happier than ever, with some very good news of their own on the way. What Piers himself made of the speculation surrounding his wife’s book is unknown, as it is one of the very few occasions where he appeared to think it advisable to keep schtum. Something else Piers wasn’t commenting on was the phone-hacking scandal by the
News of the World,
which was reaching its height in the summer of 2011, a fact not lost on those who remembered that he had himself once been editor of the
News of the World.
That said, however, to date no one has ever managed to produce a shred of evidence that
he knew what was going on – and anyway, for Piers, this was yesterday’s news. His new life in the States was going from strength to strength.
t was just as well that Piers was now firmly ensconced on the far side of the Atlantic. In the summer of 2011, the phone-hacking scandal was now raging in full force. Not only had Piers been a former editor of the
News of the World,
the paper at the heart of the furore, but it had also been he who had first promoted Rebekah Brooks, previously working on the
News of the World’
s magazine. Brooks was now the chief executive of News International, the owner of the
News of the World,
a position she was shortly to be forced out of such was the extent of the anger over the revelations. Piers’ name was frequently mentioned in connection with the revelations but, wisely, he kept his own counsel. There were also claims that he’d been involved with the dark practices when editing the
with one story surfacing that he’d allowed his 3AM girls to obtain a scoop about Ulrika Jonsson’s affair with Sven-Goran Eriksson through phone hacking. Piers was finally forced to say something: ‘I do not believe any story we published in either title was ever gained in an unlawful manner,’ he
said on his CNN show. ‘Nor have I ever seen anything that would suggest that.’
Anyway, the old life must have seemed pretty small beer to Piers. In July, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Hollywood. Piers was among the guests attending a massive banquet held in their honour. Others included Barbra Streisand, Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez and other A-listers too numerous to mention. These were the circles Piers was now mixing in.
There followed yet another spat on the back of the phone-hacking scandal, when the Tory MP Louise Mensch used parliamentary privilege to claim that Piers had admitted to it, was short-lived: a furious Piers denied the allegations and challenged her to repeat them outside Westminster. Louise refused.
In truth, a rather mixed picture of Piers’ time at the helm of both the
News of the World
was emerging. James Hipwell, a former
reporter and one of the so-called ‘City Slickers’ – the share tippers who had been working on the
when Piers became embroiled in scandal – claimed that hacking was rife while he was at the paper, but in truth, there was no love lost between him and Piers so no one knew quite who to believe. Piers certainly felt compelled to defend his own reputation: ‘For the record, in my time at the
News of the World
, I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, or published any stories based on the hacking of a phone,’ he stated.
But that was not what he’d said on
Desert Island Discs
2009. ‘What about this nice middle-class boy, who would have to be dealing with, I mean essentially people who rake through bins for a living, people who tap people’s phones, people who take secret photographs, who do all that nasty down in-the-gutter stuff,’ he was asked by presenter Kirsty Young. ‘How did you feel about that?’
‘To be honest, let’s put that in perspective,’ said Piers. ‘Not a lot of that went on. A lot of it was done by third parties rather than the staff. That’s not to defend it, because obviously you were running the results of their work. I’m quite happy to be parked in the corner of tabloid beast and to have to sit here defending all these things I used to get up to, and I make no pretence about the stuff we used to do. I simply say the net of people doing it was very wide, and a lot encompassed the high and low end of the supposed newspaper market.’ It wasn’t quite the unequivocal denial he was later to make. The Mirror Group itself, however, while saying that it would launch an investigation into journalistic practices, denied point blank it had been involved in phone hacking or had done anything wrong.
In truth, Piers had made a lot of enemies during his days in Fleet Street and many were using this as an opportunity to get back at him. The blogger Guido Fawkes had made several accusations against him, all brushed off, while
which was not an admirer of Piers,
interview with Naomi Campbell in which Piers told her hacking was a ‘widespread practice’. Piers, conscious of the fact that he now worked on the other side of the pond and that his new employers were
unlikely to be impressed by any of this, maintained his innocence, and took to Twitter.
‘I’ll be making no further comment on this Hackgate nonsense,’ he wrote. ‘But it’s important for everyone to know who these lying smearers are.’ He named Paul Staines, the Conservative blogger known as Guido Fawkes, and provided a link to Mr Staines’s biography. ‘Not exactly Woodward/Bernstein, is it?’ However, there were calls that he return to Britain to answer the allegations himself.
He also lashed out at Roy Greenslade, a fellow former
editor, and MP Louise Mensch. ‘Before Louise Mensch and Guido Fawkes self-implode with excitement, perhaps they should read this,’ Piers went on. He then linked to articles in
and other websites that seemed to clear him of accepting material based on voicemails for a 2002 story about an affair between Sven-Goran Eriksson and Ulrika Jonsson. Jon Snow, who had repeated the stories on
Channel 4 News,
was in fact forced to apologise.
The row rumbled on – both Nancy Dell’Olio and Heather Mills said they’d been hacked – after which the next person who claimed to have been hacked was Sir Paul McCartney.
‘Paul McCartney is apparently claiming someone hacked his phone. I suspect it was Heather because, if you study the divorce papers, Paul stated as a fact that Heather had recorded their conversations and given them to the media. So I suspect what she was doing was hiding herself from the whole thing. Heather Mills is not the best person to be throwing any dynamite at anyone on this.’
Piers’ new career was a welcome diversion from all this and he was still managing to make waves in the US. In August, he made the news when the controversial American politician Christine O’Donnell, a Tea Party favourite, walked off his
show when he tried to engage her on the topic of gay marriage (she was not a fan); she left after telling him she didn’t want to talk about it. Another interview that caught global attention was Mitch Winehouse talking about the death of his daughter Amy; again Piers showed that he was able to draw out his subjects, maintaining a sympathetic stance while at the same time asking searching questions.
That trait was also in evidence when he interviewed the fallen football star Paul Gascoigne on
At one time one of the greatest players of his generation, Gascoigne was by now a shadow of his former self, something he put down to having once consumed four bottles of whisky a day and sixteen lines of cocaine. ‘You think, well, how did I get myself in a state like that?’ he said. ‘Especially cocaine. It was there on a plate and I thought I’d try it and I couldn’t stop. I locked myself in a hotel room for six weeks. I’d probably have about sixteen lines of coke in a day. The football is what I lived for, what I woke up for, but that was gone. It’s taken away and you think, “Oh shit, what now?” My solution was drink and cocaine. I went loopy. The phone calls I made were unbelievable. I remember ringing my dad saying, “Listen, get your stuff, we’re going to play Presidents Clinton and Bush at chess” – I honestly believed it.
‘The worst one was when I went four months without food or water – not even water – and four bottles of whisky a day. I went to about nine stone.’ It was a tragic story – but gripping television.
Whatever his enemies might have hoped for, Piers’ CNN show was going from strength to strength. He stepped down from
America’s Got Talent
in order to concentrate more on the new show. Back in the UK,
was still going strong, with the latest interviewee Peter Andre talking about the fact he had loved his ex-wife Katie Price, but that they would never get back together.
In November 2011, Piers became a father for the fourth time when Celia gave birth to the couple’s daughter Elise at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Beverley Hills: she was ‘absurdly beautiful and utterly adorable,’ her besotted father said. The year drew to an end – and despite the ongoing allegations over phone hacking – 2011 had been a great success.
And so Piers’ journey is all but complete. From British newspaper editor to American television personality, mixing with the A-list and constantly making the headlines, Piers had totally turned his life around. With a new wife, newly born child, new career and new life, he had, ironically, become the embodiment of the American dream; he had also proved conclusively that very successful careers that are cut short sometimes have a second act. The future looks bright. Piers Morgan, not for the first time, has proven his worth.
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