intro: The newsman has become the news.
Amid the phone-hacking scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch's News of the World, the name of Piers Morgan, the CNN host, "America's Got Talent" judge and former editor of the Daily Mirror and News of the World, has come up time and time again in conversation.
The latest: This week, Heather Mills told the BBC that a reporter for the Mirror's parent company told her in 2001 that the paper hacked into her voicemail account and listened to a message left by her ex-husband, Paul McCartney, after the couple had a fight. Morgan admitted to listening to that voicemail message in 2007.
Now, British lawmaker Harriet Harman is saying Morgan "has got to answer" questions about phone hacking at the Mirror during the 1995-2004 period that he was editor, and John Whittingdale, the chair of the parliamentary phone hacking inquiry, has said he would like Morgan to return to England for questioning.
But Whittingdale can't make Morgan do that -- yet.
"I would like to see Mr. Morgan come back to this country and answer what are some very serious questions," he told reporters Thursday. "Now, he may return to the U.K., I hope he will return to the U.K., and I imagine that there will be some questions which will be put to him, possibly by the police on the basis of the evidence that has emerged. But at the moment, we can't do that."
In the meantime, a couple of fights have emerged:
quicklist: 1 title: Ring one: Morgan vs. Mills text: Part of the Mills story is old news: Morgan wrote a column for Britain's Mail on Sunday five years ago saying that he had once been played a message left by Mills' ex-husband (at that time, her boyfriend) on her mobile phone. He said the former "Beatle" sounded "lonely, miserable and desperate".
Now that Mills has opened up about that voicemail, he's gone on the defensive. Late Wednesday, after being confronted by requests to elucidate how he knew about the voicemail, Morgan put out a statement through CNN saying he had no knowledge of phone hacking at the Mirror.
"Heather Mills has made unsubstantiated claims about a conversation she may or may not have had with a senior executive from a Trinity Mirror newspaper in 2001," he said. "I have no knowledge of any conversation any executive from other newspapers at Trinity Mirror may or may not have had with Heather Mills."
He added: "What I can say and have knowledge of is that Sir Paul McCartney asserted that Heather Mills illegally intercepted his telephones, and leaked confidential material to the media. This is well documented, and was stated in their divorce case."
quicklist: 2 title: Ring two: Morgan vs. British lawmakers text: Morgan has mocked the calls for him to return home for questioning. Thursday, after Conservative Party politician Louise Mensch tweeted "However charismatic, likable and star-powered one former editor is (and he is) - there's a much bigger issue here," Morgan re-tweeted the message with a "Mwah x." Soon after, he tweeted, "So heart-warming that everyone in UK's missing me so much they want me to come home. #swoon."
Twitter fights make Morgan tick (he infamously got involved in a heated one with a New York City cable news anchor before his CNN show debuted). If past performance is any indication, he'll pound out many more 140-character hits before agreeing to undergo questioning in the U.K.