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CNN host Piers Morgan denies tie to hacking

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Piers Morgan, previously an editor in British newspapers, said that he never asked reporters to hack telephones.

LONDON - The government panel investigating the behavior of the British press conducted an unusual trans-Atlantic interrogation yesterday of Piers Morgan, who is well-known as a former editor associated with controversy and as a CNN talk-show host.

Morgan, testifying through a video link from the United States, where he is now based, was questioned about practices at the Daily Mirror, which he edited for nearly a decade until 2004. Asked if any telephone hacking by journalists had been conducted during his tenure, he repeated earlier denials of such wrongdoing.

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“I don’t believe so, no,’’ he said.

Morgan also asserted that all Daily Mirror journalists were obliged in their employment contracts to work within the law.

The inquiry, headed by a senior judge, Lord Justice Brian Leveson, has focused much of its attention in recent weeks on the Murdoch family Sunday tabloid News of the World, which was closed this year as the hacking affair engulfed it in waves of scandal.

In a separate development, News International, the British arm of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, News Corp., announced yesterday that it had settled seven more legal claims brought by well-known people who said their voice mail had been illegally intercepted by News of the World.

The seven included two former British lawmakers; James Hewitt, a former British army officer who acknowledged having an affair with Diana, princess of Wales; and Paul Dadge, a man caught up in the July 7 terrorist attacks in London.

The company did not disclose the settlement terms. In previous settlements the company has agreed to pay amounts ranging from $30,000 to $4.6 million. In its statement yesterday, News International said it had “expressed regret for the distress caused.’’

More than 100 lawsuits related to phone hacking have been brought so far, according to court documents. News International has also set up a plan to offer compensation out of court to victims of such intercepts, thought by police to number around 800.

Morgan was an editor at News of the World in 1994 and 1995, but the inquiry yesterday focused more on Morgan’s time as editor of The Daily Mirror, a tabloid not connected to the Murdoch empire.

Morgan was dismissed from The Daily Mirror in 2004 after it printed fake photographs purporting to show British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. He then turned to a new career as a television talent-show judge and talk-show host. In November, he announced that he was quitting NBC’s “America’s Got Talent’’ to concentrate on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight.’’

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