Good Morning America's Nick Watt on Thursday launched into a mocking attack on CNN host Piers Morgan and his role in the British hacking scandal. With barely restrained glee, Watt gloated, "The tide of scandal is now lapping into the well-pressed pant cuffs of the man who took Larry King's chair and the America's Got Talent self-proclaimed loud mouth."
Watt played an audio clip from a 2009 interview in which a BBC reporter casually asked Morgan about his 11 years as editor of British tabloids and having to tap phones and take secret photos.
After initially saying that "not a lot of that went on," Morgan added, "A lot of it was done by third parties rather than the staff themselves. That's not to defend it because, obviously, you were running the results of their, of their work."
[See video below. MP3 audio here.]
In a statement to ABC, Morgan defended that his answer "was not specific" to the hacking part of the question, but rather a more general rumination on being a tabloid editor.
Watt, like Morgan, is also British and no effort to hide the pleasure he seemed to take in the possible downfall of his colleague. He mused, "[Morgan's] tabloid past is now tapping him on the shoulder and just might wipe the smile from his face."
Continuing the attack, the GMA journalist pointed out that Morgan once attributed a big scoop to "learning" of a phone message.
After a lengthy silence, Morgan discussed his role as a tabloid on July 19. The host denied any knowledge of hacking.
On July 20, Morgan again denied the hacking charges and told a female member of Parliament to "show some balls" and repeat a charge that he was involved in the scandal.
Watt also reminded viewers that Morgan was fired from the Mirror after publishing faked photos of Iraqi prisioners being abused by the British Army.
A transcript of the July 15 segment, which aired at 7:15am EDT, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: Let's turn to the phone hacking scandal that's rocking Rupert Murdoch's media empire. CNN anchor Piers Morgan now defending himself against accusations he knew about illegal phone hacking when he was editor at two papers, one of them owned by Murdoch. ABC's Nick Watt has the latest from London.
NICK WATT: The tide of scandal is now lapping into the well-pressed pant cuffs of the man who took Larry King's chair and the America's Got Talent self-proclaimed loud mouth. Because before all that-
PIERS MORGAN: I was the editor of two major British newspapers for 11 years.
WATT: And listen carefully to this recently unearthed interview.
UNIDENTIFIED HOST [Clip from Desert Island Discs BBC Radio Four]: And what about this nice middle class boy who would have to be dealing with, I mean, essentially, people who rake through bins for living. People who tap people's phones. People who take secret photographs and do all that very nasty, down-in-the-gutter stuff. How did you feel about that?
MORGAN: Well, to be honest, let's put that into perspective as well. Not a lot of that went on.
MORGAN: No. A lot of it was done by third parties rather than the staff themselves. That's not to defend it because, obviously, you were running the results of their, of their work.
WATT: Morgan refused to speak to us but did speak to his own network, CNN.
MORGAN: 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.
WATT: He gave us a statement which reads in part "my answer was not specific to any of the numerous examples she gave but a general observation about tabloid newspaper reporters and private investigators. " But there's more. Writing in the Daily Mail, Morgan once attributed a big scoop to, quote, "learning" of a phone message. And a disgruntled reporter who worked for Morgan told the Independent phone hacking was endemic. On Twitter he brands his accusers "liars, druggie ex-bankrupts and con men." Now, Morgan lost his newspaper job for unwittingly publishing fake photographs but since flourished on TV. His tabloid past is now tapping him on the shoulder and just might wipe the smile from his face. For Good Morning America, Nick Watt, ABC News, London.