Can Piers Morgan survive? It is a question his enemies and fans on both sides of the Atlantic are asking with increasing urgency.

The position of the former British tabloid editor turned CNN chat show host looks vulnerable as the phone-hacking scandal continues to unfold.

But unlike other senior journalists caught up in the scandal, it is not Scotland Yard that has been responsible for turning up the heat on Morgan.

Rather, in what his enemies might suggest is proof that there is such a thing as divine retribution, it is Morgan's unchecked vanity.


Morgan, who edited the Daily Mirror for nearly a decade until 2004, faces questions over a series of boasts that suggest he was at the very least familiar with the practice of phone hacking.

Morgan admitted in a column for the Daily Mail in 2006 that he had heard a message left by Sir Paul McCartney on the phone of Heather Mills, then his wife, in which the former Beatle sounded "lonely, miserable and desperate". The disclosure has prompted Mills to claim the message could have been heard only by hacking into her phone.

Certainly, Morgan appears to have known that there were people capable of hacking phones on behalf of journalists.

Former Mirror business journalist James Hipwell alleges phone hacking happened regularly under Morgan. "It was a widespread practice," said Hipwell, who is in talks with literary agents about publishing a book on some of Fleet Street's murkier practices. "People saw it as a bit of a game, a wheeze. It wasn't just celebrities, it was people like PR handlers at the BBC."

Morgan consistently denies any knowledge his paper ran stories obtained by hacking, which seems unlikely to Hipwell. "He was the beating heart of the paper, nothing happened without him knowing," he said.

Hipwell describes Morgan as a "good editor" who was "very supportive". But executives on all Fleet Street titles were locked in brutal battles to bring in scoops and editors were prepared to overlook how a story was obtained if it guaranteed to make a splash.

"It wasn't just about getting one over on the celebrity but your opposite number on the Sun," Hipwell said. "If one newspaper is doing it the others have to do it. If you don't get stories you lose circulation."

That hacking was confined to the News of the World (which Morgan edited from 1994-95) seems inconceivable. A revolving door that saw journalists shuttle between the Trinity Mirror and News International titles meant knowledge of the dark arts was quickly dispersed across newspapers.


Morgan also faces questions over whether his newspaper used private detectives to help reporters obtain information. In his book, The Insider, Morgan recalled how in April 2000 "someone had got hold" of Kate Winslet's phone number, adding: "I never like to ask how." Winslet asked Morgan: "How did you get my number? I've only just changed it. You've got to tell me, please, I am so worried now."

Morgan also bragged that he saw off a potential legal challenge from Princess Diana's former lover, James Hewitt. Morgan wrote that Hewitt claimed he had not been paid for his collaboration on a book. Morgan replied: "Yes you did - I saw your bank statements".

It is doubtful whether such information could have been obtained by anything other than illegal means. Hewitt is now reporting Morgan to the police, urging them to reopen an investigation into allegations surrounding the theft of his personal letters from the princess.

So far Morgan has weathered the storm. The allegations made by Mills and Hewitt have been shrugged off as both have question marks over their credibility and motivation. Hipwell was jailed for his part in a share-tipping scandal at the Mirror, which also tainted Morgan, and could be accused of having an agenda, a charge he denies.

But Morgan's chief concern now must be that a heavyweight accuser comes forward whose claims carry more weight. Certainly there is no shortage of people who have it in for him.

In the US Morgan is unusual: he is a successful UK media export whose brash persona antagonises the US east coast elite but plays well with main street America. But some media commentators think his days are numbered.

CNN will be acutely aware that News Corp's decision to close the News of the World came far too late to prevent immeasurable damage to Rupert Murdoch's empire. It will not want to make the same mistake.


You have denied hacking a phone, ordering journalists to do so or knowingly publishing any story obtained from the hacking of a phone. Do you still stand by this claim?

Have you ever sanctioned the illegal interception/bugging of emails or phone calls either directly or via a third party?

If requested, will you appear before the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee?

You heard a tape of an answerphone message left by Sir Paul McCartney to Heather Mills, then his wife: how was this obtained?

Did you, to her satisfaction, explain to Kate Winslet how your newspaper obtained her mobile phone number?