Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman has claimed former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan once showed him how to hack a phone.
Speaking at the Leveson Inquiry this afternoon, Paxman recalled a September 2002 lunch at Mirror headquarters during which Morgan was “teasing” Ulrika Jonsson, former partner of ex-England football manager Sven-Göran Eriksson, telling her “he knew what had happened in the conversations between her and Sven-Göran Eriksson”.
He added that Morgan asked him if he had a mobile phone, explaining: “the way to get access to people’s messages was go to the factory default setting and press either 0000 or 1234, and that if you didn’t put on your own code — his words — ‘you’re a fool’.”
“It was clearly something that he was familiar with and I wasn’t”, Paxman said, adding he “didn’t know that this went on.”
He said he did not know if Morgan was “repeating a conversation he had heard or he was imagining this conversation”, but suggested accepting both possibilities because Morgan “probably was imagining it.”
The Newsnight anchor added that he felt the atmosphere of the lunch was “bullying”.
“I didn’t like it,” he said.
Morgan has said several times that he has “no reason to believe” that any phone hacking occurred at the Daily Mirror under his editorship from 1995-2004.
Also appearing this afternoon was former Home Secretary John Reid, who said he was not briefed on Operation Caryatid — the original phone-hacking investigation — until 8 August 2006, around the time of the arrests of the News of the World’s royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
“When I say that throughout this I wasn’t receiving briefings, it’s not a complaint,” Reid said, stressing that he knew “what the counter-terrorist unit had on its plate.”
Reid said the country was facing up to 70 terrorist plots when he took office in May 2006, and the timing of the Mulcaire-Goodman arrests coincided almost exactly with the arrest of the ringleader in a plot to bring down 10 trans-Atlantic airliners.
He added that it was “completely untrue” that he knew other reporters at the now-defunct tabloid might have been involved in phone hacking in 2006.
The Inquiry continues tomorrow.
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