LONDON — A prominent British TV presenter said Wednesday that CNN talk show host Piers Morgan gave him a primer on phone hacking, a revelation that suggests he knew a fair amount about how the shady practice was carried out.
BBC quiz show host and television news presenter Jeremy Paxman told a media ethics inquiry that Morgan delivered his warning over lunch at the headquarters of the Mirror newspaper, which he was then editing, in 2002.
Paxman said that Morgan "turned to me and said, 'Have you got a mobile phone?'"
"I said, 'yes,' and he asked if there was a security setting on the message bit of it. I didn't know what he was talking about.
"He then explained the way to get access to people's messages was to go to the factory default setting and press either 0000 or 1234 and that if you didn't put on your own code, (in) his words, 'You're a fool.'"
Morgan's apparent familiarity with how to bypass the factory default settings of a mobile phone appears at odds with what he'd told the same inquiry late last year. Quizzed repeatedly about statements he'd made suggesting that big chunks of the newspaper business were involved in phone hacking, Morgan claimed he'd merely been repeating gossip he picked off the industry's rumor mill. The CNN star has repeatedly denied having ever hacked a phone or knowingly run material obtained by phone hacking.
A spokeswoman for Morgan didn't immediately return an email seeking comment, but Morgan took to Twitter to make light of the development.
"Right — that's the last time I'm inviting Jeremy Paxman to lunch," Morgan wrote. "Ungrateful little wretch."
Paxman and Morgan were both called to testify by Lord Justice Brian Leveson, who is sifting through the fallout of the scandal over unethical and illegal behavior at the now-shuttered News of the World tabloid, which Morgan briefly edited before moving to the Mirror.
Journalists at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid routinely hacked phones to get stories, bypassing weak security to illegally eavesdrop on private conversations of politicians, celebrities, sports stars, and other public figures.
The scandal that erupted when the full extent of such practices was exposed last year has rocked Britain's establishment, leading to the arrest of dozens of people and casting a harsh light on relations among the press, politicians, and the police.