Steve Coogan: Piers Morgan Is “Symptomatic of the Problem” With British Tabloid Media

 

Steve Coogan Inset Piers Morgan
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The actor and campaigner for press reform, speaking to political editor Robert Peston on the ITV evening show, made the claims a day after Morgan dramatically quit as co-host on ITV’s Good Morning Britain amid growing condemnation for comments he made about Meghan Markle in the wake of the explosive royal interview with Oprah Winfrey. Morgan faced widespread criticism for his tirades against Markle on Monday’s episode of the breakfast news show, in particular for saying that he didn’t believe the Duchess’ story about feeling suicidal and requesting help from Buckingham Palace, only to be turned down.

“Who did you go to? What did they say to you? I’m sorry, I don’t believe a word she said, Meghan Markle,” he said. “I wouldn’t believe it if she read me a weather report.”

Coogan cited the investigation into Morgan’s comments by U.K. regulator Ofcom, sparked after it received more than 41,000 complaints.

“Ofcom is investigating Piers Morgan for disbelieving Meghan’s mental health claims,” he said. “But they should be investigating whether it was right for the man cited by dozens of claimants in the Mirror hacking litigation to have been allowed a platform to attack one of his accusers.”

The actor was referring to the infamous phone hacking scandal that erupted in the late 2000s, in which it was revealed that U.K. tabloid newspapers had for years been illegally intercepting the voicemail messages of hundreds of celebrities, politicians and even murder victims in order to find information for stories. In 2019, Prince Harry started legal proceedings against The Sun and The Daily Mirror “regarding the illegal interception of voicemail messages” dating back to the early 2000s, when Morgan edited the paper.

In 2017, Coogan won a six-figure settlement from The Daily Mirror‘s publishers after it was found that his phone was among those hacked, again under Morgan’s editorship.

He claimed that Morgan and fellow editors and executives at publishers The Mirror Group hadn’t “been subjected to proper scrutiny” following revelations from the Leveson Inquiry, the public inquiry into U.K. media practices ethics — particularly over phone hacking allegations — that ultimately led to Rupert Murdoch closing The News of The World. Morgan has regularly claimed that he had no knowledge of incidents of hacking at The Daily Mirror.

Speaking to Peston, who repeatedly tried to stop Coogan discussing the hacking scandal and Morgan’s alleged involvement, Coogan cast doubt over the outgoing Good Morning Britain host’s claims.

“Piers Morgan, several years ago in front of the Leveson Inquiry, swore under oath that he had no knowledge of hacking at the Mirror Group newspapers. And The Mirror Group newspapers have paid out tens of millions [of pounds] in damages to litigants.”

Coogan has repeatedly called for a second part of the Inquiry, aimed at uncovering the individuals who were involved in the hacking and those that knew that it was taking place.

Speaking about Prince Harry and Markle, Coogan claimed that the two became the subject of the relentless tabloid scrutiny they described in the Oprah interview because they dared criticise the British press, and that “things got really nasty” after they sued The SunThe Mirror and The Daily Mail.

“The fact that Meghan Markle and Harry were attacked has nothing to do with jet-setting hypocrisy,” he said. “It’s because they broke the golden rule, which is to leave us alone and we’ll go easy on you next time.”

Coogan added: “The tabloid press is controlled by a handful of tax shy billionaires with an agenda. Anyone who stands up to the press is attacked by them because they’re bullies.”