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Piers Morgan Testifies in UK Media Inquiry

CNN star interviewer Piers Morgan is answering questions about his time at the top of Britain's tabloid industry.

Piers Morgan
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Piers Morgan

The widely anticipated testimony that may dredge up allegations that his British newspaper career was colored by wrongdoing.

Morgan ran two British tabloids — the News of the World and the Daily Mirror — before his editorship was cut short by controversy over faked photographs in 2004.

Morgan was giving evidence to Britain's media ethics inquiry by video link from the United States on Tuesday.

Morgan reiterated that he had no personal recollection of the use of private investigators during his time at the News of the World.

"I was never directly involved, this was dealt through the news desk or the features desk," he said, but added that journalists knew they had to act within the law.

Morgan is one of a host of tabloid newspaper executives to face the inquiry, set up in the wake of the eruption of phone hacking scandal over the News of the World.

His memoirs contain tantalizing references to questionably obtained material, and the 46-year-old has acknowledged condoning unethical behavior — including overseeing payoffs to spies on rival newspapers.

Morgan refused to give details about his acknowledgment that he once listened to a phone message left by Paul McCartney for his then-wife Heather Mills.

In a 2006 article, Morgan said he was played a phone message left by the former Beatle on Mills' answering machine. Mills has said there's no way Morgan could have obtained the message honestly.

Denials

Morgan denies having ever hacked a phone or knowingly run a story based on hacked information. Asked by a committee member if he ever listened to recordings of illegally-obtained voicemail messages, he said: "I do not believe so."

He also stressed that "not a single person" has made a formal complaint against the Daily Mirror for hacking.

James Hipwell, a former financial journalist who worked at the Daily Mirror at the same time with Morgan, said in his testimony to the committee that phone hacking was going on at the newspaper.

"My evidence is I had no reason or knowledge to believe it was going on," Morgan said.

The inquiry heard earlier Tuesday from reporter Sharon Marshall, whose book "Tabloid Girl: A True Story" detailed the misdemeanors of Britain's press — including faked expenses, manufactured quotes, unscrupulous reporters, hot-tempered editors and worse.

Marshall took pains to distance herself from her own book, saying she never intended to accuse anyone of wrongdoing and that the last half of the title — "True Story" — might have been misleading.

One by one, she dismissed her nearly all her own stories — which her book insists are accurate — as "dramatization," "topspin," "a good yarn," "a joke," or an "embellished shaggy dog tale."

News International Pays Out

Rupert Murdoch's News International says it has paid out to seven more prominent figures in the wake of thephone hacking scandalat its now-shuttered News of the World tabloid.

Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation
Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images
Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation

The company says it has settled claims brought by Princess Diana's former lover James Hewitt, ex-Liberal Democrat lawmaker Mark Oaten, TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson, model Abi Titmuss, and Paul Dadge, who helped rescue victims of the 2005 London transit bombings.

Theatrical agent Michelle Milburn and Calum Best, the son of soccer legend George Best, round out the list.

The tabloid routinely hacked into the phones of prominent figures in its search for scoops.

News International subsidiary News Group Newspapers and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire face dozens of lawsuits over the practice.

The terms of the payments were not disclosed Tuesday.