Tory MP Louise Mensch has apologised to Piers Morgan after falsely alleging the former Daily Mirror editor had admitted using phone-hacking to reveal the affair between former England manager Sven Goran-Eriksson and Ulrika Jonsson in 2003.
Mensch made the claim during the culture select committee’s evidence session on 19 July, when she said Morgan had been ‘open about personally hacking phones’in his book The Insider.
In the hearing Mensch said to James Murdoch: ‘As a former editor of the Daily Mirror, he [Morgan] said in his book The Insider recently that that ‘little trick’ of entering a ‘standard four digit code’ will allow ‘anyone’ to call a number and hear all your messages.
‘In that book, he boasted that using that ‘little trick’ enabled him to win scoop of the year on a story about Sven Goran-Eriksson. That is a former editor of the Daily Mirror being very open about his personal use of phone hacking.’She later repeated the claim when questioning Rebekah Brooks.
This is what Morgan actually said in The Insider: ‘I’ve been called to another interview with the DTI next month. Rather worryingly, this development leads to a flurry of calls from journalists asking about it. Given that the DTI has not to my knowledge leaked anything about this case to anyone, I am mystified.
‘But someone suggested today that people might be listening to my mobile phone messages. Apparently if you don’t change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and, if you don’t answer, tap in the standard four digit code to hear all your messages.
‘I’ll change mine just in case, but it makes me wonder how many public figures and celebrities are aware of this trick”.
In a letter to the committee, the chief executive of Trinity Mirror, Sly Bailey, Trinity Mirror chief Sly Bailey said the company was prepared to accept that Mensch’s comments were the result of ‘bad briefing’and not made out of malice, but said that if the comments went uncorrected then ‘they could cause The Mirror serious reputational damage and are likely to be repeated elsewhere”.
In a letter to the chair of the committee, MP John Wittingdale, Mensch said: ‘The Telegraph report covers the claim of a blogger that this story was acquired by phone hacking, and I misread that as Mr Morgan himself claiming this to be true.
‘Therefore, I must apologise to Mr Morgan and the committee for this error about his book. I would have done much better to stick to quoting the figures for the Daily Mirror (and for Associated Newspapers) in ‘Operation Motorman’, as identified in the report ‘What Price Privacy Now’.
‘The question for me was always was illegality confined to the News of the World and News International titles, or whether those papers had an air of entitlement in a Fleet Street culture where hacking and blagging was in fact widespread.”