FORMER British tabloid editor and now top CNN chatshow host, Piers Morgan, today admitting listening to a hacked phone conversation between Paul McCartney and his then wife Heather Mills, but refused to accept that it was unethical.
He was giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking in London, via a video link from New York.
A tense Mr. Morgan was initially asked about previously revealing details of listening to voicemails between the rock icon and Ms. Mills, after they had blazing rows.
He was editor of the Daily Mirror at the time.
He replied: “At one stage I was played a tape of a message Paul had left for Heather on her mobile phone. It was heartbreaking. The couple had clearly had a tiff, Heather had fled to India, and Paul was pleading with her to come back. He sounded lonely, miserable and desperate, and even sang 'We Can Work It Out' into the answer phone.”
However, when pushed today, Mr Morgan refused to describe listening to the message as “unethical.”
And Mr. Morgan said he had not been "directly involved" in the use of private investigators at the Daily Mirror.
“I don’t, because I was never directly involved this was dealt with through the news desk or the features desk but certainly the journalists all knew they had to operate within the law so I never had any concern.”
Mr. Morgan, also a former editor at the now defunct News of the World, told the Leveson Inquiry that "ethical considerations" had been "interwoven" into his work.
But he said British libel laws had imposed "enormously onerous" requirements.
Mr. Morgan said he was unaware of any phone hacking going on at the Daily Mirror under his leadership, adding: "To the best of my recollection, I do not believe so."
Earlier, Mr. Morgan admitted using the services of Benji "The Binman" Pell, who would go through rubbish bins of the rich and famous to try and find stories about them.
Mr. Morgan said: "Did I think he was doing anything illegal? No.
"Did I think it was on the cusp of unethical? Yes.
"If you threw something away you are disregarding it and you clearly have no use for it and it is going off to the rubbish tip."
Talking about his time as an editor, Mr. Morgan said: "I would say the average editor is aware of 5pc of what his journalists are up to at any given time on any newspaper."
Mr. Morgan added that he had "no reason or knowledge" to believe that hacking was going on.
He said he would "not usually" ask journalists about the sources of their information.
Mr. Jay asked: "Are you seeking to distance yourself from these sources of information because the sources we are talking about are the fruits of phone hacking?"
Mr. Morgan replied: "No".