Those of us who live in the UK will all recognise Piers Morgan. He has been a key player in the UK’s media for decades and, to some, comes across as intelligent, hard hitting, and someone who is “not afraid to say what he thinks”. To others, he is deemed to be obnoxious, opinionated, and in general a journalist who lost his objectivity many years ago.
This article is being written in the wake of the latest Piers Morgan press disaster. Some of you may have noticed I said ‘latest’ and could be unaware of Morgan’s past actions. In this article I will evaluate and report why Piers Morgan’s comments about Meghan Markle, and his subsequent resignation from ITV, were by no means unexpected.
Scandals and Success
Piers Morgan has undoubtedly led a career that many journalists yearn for: being a writer for the country’s largest papers including The Sun, The News of the World, The Daily Mirror as well as the Daily Mail just to name a few. His rise to success could be described as astronomical, and Piers became the editor of the News of the World at aged 29 (the youngest editor in the country in almost half a century).
However, it wasn’t long before the issues that would plague Piers for the rest of his career started to surface.
Before we discuss Piers’ wrongdoings, we must also pay tribute to his successful career in television, frequently hosting his own shows such as the celebrity interview show ‘Piers Morgan’s Life Stories’. Morgan was such a well-known face, that he even made it onto Simon Cowell’s ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ as one of the judges tasked with selecting the acts that would be seen by the Queen at the Royal Variety Show. This success on TV led to his appointment to ITV’s morning show – Good Morning Britain. This is where Piers used his position to interview political elites, celebrities and have his say on current affairs.
The News of the World and Catherine Victoria Lockwood
Only a year after his impressive appointment as editor of the News of the World, Piers had to quit. However, it would be better to use the phrase to “jump before one is pushed”. This phrase would serve the neutral observer well when considering Piers’ different tenures at various media outlets.
Morgan’s resignation as editor of News of the World was due to him breaking the editors’ code, outlined by the then regulatory body of the UK press, the PCC. Morgan gave the greenlight for pictures to be published of Catherine Lockwood leaving an addictive disorders clinic. This infringed on her personal privacy and cost Morgan his job. Well known media tycoon, Rupert Murdoch, reportedly stated that Morgan had “gone too far” – hardly a glowing recommendation from one of the media’s most controversial figures.
The Daily Mirror
One would think that following a run in with the PCC that Morgan would clean up his act. One would be mistaken. Within the first year of his tenure as editor of The Mirror he had to publicly apologise for an insensitive sports headline, which referenced the Second World War in relation to the German football team.
5 years later, he was then found to have breached the PCC’s rules on financial journalism, when he authorised the tipping of a company, which Piers himself (and his wife) had invested heavily in within the financial section of his paper. On this occasion, Morgan kept his job.
He did ‘leave’ The Mirror a few years later however, when he authorised the publishing of photos supposedly depicting the UK military torturing and mistreating Iraqi prisoners. These photos were proven to be fake, yet Piers never personally apologised for his mistake, instead claiming that they accurately depicted similar situations which were happening in Iraq. He did not survive this PR disaster and once again jumped ship.
Phone Hacking Scandal
One of the more important scandals of Piers Morgan’s career has never been fully resolved: the phone hacking of the early 2000s. For context, it was discovered that in the early 2000s and late 1990s, journalists were tapping into the voicemails of celebrities, politicians, and, in the most high-profile cases, missing schoolgirls. Piers was not convicted or even charged of anything in relation to the phone hacking scandal, which plagued the country 20 years ago. He was questioned however at the Leveson Inquiry, which investigated the phone hacking scandal in 2011.
Piers Morgan was not charged or convicted. He has admitted though, that in his time at the mirror, he knew phone hacking was going on in the country. Which makes me question – if he knew it was going on, why did he not report it? He admitted to warning Jeremy Paxman about the hacking in 2002 but chose not to inform the police. Why? If he saw it fit to warn his friends that it was ongoing – why not put a stop to it altogether?
The Leveson Inquiry found that phone hacking was rampant across the whole industry including, at Morgan’s then paper: The Daily Mirror.
Morgan knew phone hacking was going on but did nothing to prevent it, and his paper was found to have been part of the problem. Yet, Piers said he had no knowledge of phone hacking at his paper. As Brian Cathcart pointed out however, this is extremely unlikely.
If Piers believed his paper was in the clear at the time, but he knew his rivals were breaking the law then why would he not report it? Surely it would be a great victory for him and his paper to be one of the only press organisations in the country not embroiled in such a huge scandal? As there has been no further action against Piers, it would be irresponsible to deem him guilty or not, but it is a peculiar sequence of events even to the neutral.
Good Morning Britain
Now we skip ahead to the not-so-distant past. In 2015, Piers Morgan became the co-host to ITV’s breakfast show: Good Morning Britain. It was here that Piers took a firm step back into the limelight. His interviews with politicians such as Matt Hancock during the coronavirus pandemic were lauded as excellent journalism and a fine example of holding the government to account. Piers gained great popularity from his role at GMB and succeeded in his goal of taking the show to the top of the ratings ahead of the BBC’s own morning show, BBC Breakfast.
However, in March 2021 Piers left his role. To those who never knew his past it may have seemed out of character for an experienced journalist and presenter to walk off set mid-debate, especially after he so eagerly interrogated others week in week out. However, the signs do point to a sense of self-importance so prominent in Piers. That he simply cannot or will not see what he has done wrong.
Piers Morgan described Meghan Markle’s account of her relationship with the Royal Family, the British Press and her own mental health to be a “diatribe of bilge.” When it came to Markle herself, Piers stated “I don’t believe a word she says”. He was challenged Alex Beresford, a fellow presenter on GMB, on his comments and ended up storming off set and subsequently ‘leaving’ his role at Good Morning Britain.
Even if we ignore the horrendous issue of Piers’ flat-out denial of Markle’s suicidal thoughts, it is shocking unprofessionalism. Any qualified journalist in the UK studies objectivity and has to abide by rules in relation to bias. Piers Morgan may think that Meghan Markle is lying (and he is entitled to do so) but to express this opinion both on national television and in a national newspaper is catastrophically irresponsible. At the time of writing, the GMB segment, in which his rant appears, has become the most complained about show in OFCOM’s history. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know about Piers Morgan, then I’m not sure what will.
So, what now for Piers? Well undoubtedly, he’ll roll with the punches and when the dust settles will probably land another high paying job, as he has time and time again following the messy and sometimes legally questionable end of his many different roles in the media. History tends to have a habit of repeating itself, so I wouldn’t be shocked if in the next 10 or so years, I am adding another section to this already long-winded description of the highs and lows of the notorious Piers Morgan.