British MP apologises to Piers Morgan over hacking claim

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A British lawmaker apologised to US talk show host Piers Morgan on Friday for suggesting that he used phone hacking when he was a tabloid newspaper editor.

"I wrongly stated that Piers Morgan, formerly editor of the Daily Mirror, had been open about personally hacking phones in a book he wrote," Conservative MP Louise Mensch wrote in a letter released to the press.

Mensch is a member of the parliamentary committee which questioned media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, his son James and his former aide Rebekah Brooks on July 19 about phone hacking at the now closed News of the World.

During her questioning, she claimed that Morgan boasted about using a phone hacking "trick" to win a scoop of the year award.

This sparked outrage from the former journalist, a one-time editor of the News of the World, who accused Mensch of a "blatant lie".

In a letter to the chairman of the media committee, John Whittingdale, Mensch said the claim was based on her "misreading" of a newspaper article.

"Therefore, I must apologise to Mr. Morgan and the committee for this error about his book," she said.

In a showdown with Mensch on live US television after the committee hearing, Morgan challenged her to repeat her claims outside the protective walls of parliament, within which she cannot be sued for libel.

When she refused, he accused her of "cowardice", saying her claim was a "blatant lie".

"For the record, in my time at the Mirror and the News of the World I have never hacked a phone, told anybody to hack a phone or published any story based on the hacking of a phone," he said.

Morgan was sacked as editor of the Daily Mirror in 2004 for publishing fake photos of British soldiers purportedly abusing Iraqis in Basra, but has reinvited himself as a television interviewer in the United States.

Mensch, an author, was elected as a lawmaker for Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party in May last year.

© 2011 AFP

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