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Lawmakers: Piers Morgan should discuss hacking
LONDON (AP) - CNN's celebrity interviewer Piers Morgan faced calls Thursday to return to Britain to explain what he knows about the country's phone hacking scandal, although the 46-year-old star didn't seem in any hurry to go home.
The heat was turned up on Morgan when Heather Mills, the ex-wife of Paul McCartney, accused newspaper group Trinity Mirror PLC of accessing her voicemail messages. Morgan edited the company's flagship Daily Mirror newspaper between 1995 and 2004.
Some lawmakers have called on Morgan to return to Britain to answer questions about the scandal, but his spokesman, Meghan McPartland, said he had no immediate plans to leave for Britain.
On his Twitter feed, Morgan made light of the situation, saying he found it "so heartwarming that everyone in U.K.'s missing me so much they want me to come home."
Mills' allegation, made Wednesday in an interview with the BBC, centers on a phone call she said she received from a senior Trinity Mirror journalist in 2001, before she and McCartney were married.
In the call, the journalist referred to relationship problems she was having with the former Beatle. When Mills asked how he knew, she said the journalist quoted a voicemail left by McCartney on her phone word-for-word. She said that when she then accused him of breaking into her phone and threatened to call the police, he admitted it and promised not to run a story on the couple's fight.
Mills identified the journalist, although the BBC bleeped out the name, citing legal reasons. The BBC did say that the journalist was not Morgan.
Even though Morgan wasn't the one named by Mills, her allegation echoes a claim he himself made back in 2006, a few months after the couple began divorce proceedings.
In an article published by the Daily Mail, Morgan said that he had been played a tape of a message McCartney had left on Mills' cell phone in the wake of one of their fights.
"It was heartbreaking," Morgan wrote. "He sounded lonely, miserable and desperate, and even sang 'We Can Work It Out' into the answerphone."
In a statement released Wednesday, Morgan described Mills' allegation as unsubstantiated and noted that the judge in the couple's divorce case had cast aspersions on her credibility. He has repeatedly denied having ever ordered anyone to spy on others' voicemails.
Mills office on Thursday declined to elaborate on what she told the BBC, but said that the 43-year-old "looks forward to receiving Piers Morgan's answer as to how he knew the content of her private voicemail messages."
Although the scandal exploded at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World _ which the media tycoon has since shut _ lately other British media titles, including those published by the Trinity Mirror, have come under scrutiny.
Labour Party deputy leader Harriet Harman also said Morgan had questions to answer over the extent of phone hacking within Britain's media industry.
Harman said that "the public rightly expects that we will get to the bottom of phone hacking. That's why it is so important that the police investigation looks at all the evidence and leaves no stone unturned."
John Whittingdale, chairman of Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport committee, which has examined Britain's phone-hacking scandal, said Morgan should return to the U.K. to answer questions _ although not from his panel of lawmakers, which famously grilled Rupert Murdoch and his son James last month.
He said the panel's remit is focused only on allegations against the News of the World, but that a police inquiry into hacking may be interested to hear from Morgan. "Certainly if there is evidence implicating other newspapers then that needs to be part of that investigation," Whittingdale told Sky News.
Conservative legislator Therese Coffey, a member of Whittingdale's committee, also urged Morgan to return. "I think it would help everybody, including himself and this investigation, if he was able to say more about why he wrote what he did in 2006," she told the BBC's Newsnight program on Wednesday.
In a separate development, the publisher of Britain's Daily Mail newspaper announced late Thursday that it was reviewing its editorial procedures. No reason for the review was given, but the entire tabloid newspaper industry has been under a cloud since news of phone hacking was first made public. Piers Morgan is one of many who've claimed that a host of different publications engaged in the practice.
Associated Newspapers Ltd., which publishes the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, said in a terse statement that Liz Hartley, the company's head of editorial legal services, would be among those working on the review.
Few other details were revealed, and Hartley did not immediately return emails seeking further comment.
David Stringer and Jill Lawless contributed to this report.
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