Piers Morgan has hit back at Prince Harry after receiving fierce criticism from the royal during his phone hacking trial.
The Duke of Sussex said the thought of the former editor of the Daily Mirror and his “band of journalists” earwigging on his mother’s messages “makes me feel physically sick”.
Morgan told Sky News he didn’t see any of Harry’s comments, but added: “I wish him luck with his privacy campaign and look forward to reading about it in his next book.”
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Prince Harry‘s comments were written on page 12 of his 55-page witness statement, which claims that 33 articles written by papers owned by the Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) involved unlawful information gathering by the publisher, including phone hacking.
The Duke of Sussex wrote: “The thought of Piers Morgan and his band of journalists earwigging into my mother’s private and sensitive messages (in the same way as they have me) and then having given her a ‘nightmare time’ three months prior to her death in Paris, makes me feel physically sick and even more determined to hold those responsible, including Mr Morgan, accountable for their vile and entirely unjustified behaviour.”
Yesterday, the High Court was told allegations that Princess Diana’s phone was hacked by the paper when it was under Morgan’s supervision from 1995 to 2004.
Prince Harry’s lawyer, David Sherborne, read aloud details of letters she wrote to comedian Michael Barrymore that revealed the pair had secret meetings, and that the Princess was supporting Barrymore who was “struggling with coming out as gay”.
He said that in Morgan’s book, The Insider, he refers to “rumours” that Diana was “secretly comforting” Barrymore and that he was being treated for alcohol addiction.
In his witness statement – paragraph 42 – Harry writes: “Mr Morgan’s reference to ‘secret’ meetings, I can only assume that this information had been obtained via voicemail interception and/or other unlawful information gathering such as live land line tapping.”
‘Barrage of horrific personal attacks’
Morgan has always denied any involvement in, or knowledge of phone-hacking or other illegal activity, but has very publicly criticised both Harry and his wife, Meghan, in the past.
Later in the statement – paragraph 194 – Prince Harry accuses Morgan of inflicting a “barrage of horrific personal attacks and intimidation” on both him and Meghan.
“Unfortunately, as a consequence of me bringing my Mirror Group claim, both myself and my wife have been subjected to a barrage of horrific personal attacks and intimidation from Piers Morgan, who was the Editor of the Daily Mirror between 1995 and 2004, presumably in retaliation and in the hope that I will back down, before being able to hold him properly accountable for his unlawful activity towards both me and my mother during his editorship,” he wrote.
Morgan’s spokesperson had no comment on Harry’s claims.
Piers Morgan Vs Harry and Meghan: A brief history
The Duke of Sussex today firmly put Piers Morgan in the spotlight for his alleged actions as editor of the Daily Mirror.
But Morgan’s relationship with the royal couple has a complex history.
Morgan first met Meghan in 2016, before she met Prince Harry.
The pair “got on brilliantly” and “had a couple of dirty martinis” according to Morgan, who told RTE’s The Late Late Show in 2019.
But their relationship quickly turned sour after Meghan met Harry, when Morgan accused the duchess of “ghosting” him.
“I just think she’s a slight social climber,” he told Late Late host Ryan Tubridy.
Morgan’s criticism of the couple then escalated after their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021, in which Meghan said she “didn’t want to be alive anymore”.
Reacting to the interview, Morgan said he “didn’t believe a word” of it, while presenting ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB).
His comments sparked furious outrage from the public, with 41,000 Ofcom complaints and mental health charity Mind stating they were “disappointed” by his comments.
Perhaps most famously of all, Morgan stormed off the set of GMB, and later left his role as presenter, after clashing with fellow presenter Alex Beresford about the interview.
Morgan maintained his opinion even after leaving the show, saying that he didn’t believe “almost anything that comes out of her mouth” and that Meghan had done damage to the British monarchy.
“If I have to fall on my sword for expressing an honestly-held opinion about Meghan Markle and that diatribe of bilge that she came out with in that interview, so be it,” he said in March 2021.
It also emerged that Meghan formally complained about Morgan before he left GMB.
The complaint was understood to focus on how Morgan’s comments may affect the issue of mental health generally and those attempting to deal with their own problems.
What has MGN said?
Previously, MGN, now owned by Reach, has admitted its titles were involved in phone hacking, settling more than 600
claims, but its lawyer, Andrew Green KC, has maintained that there was no evidence that Harry had ever been a victim.
As Prince Harry became the first British royal to appear in a witness box in more than a century, Mr Green claimed that his phone could not have been hacked when one of the articles was published as he did not have a mobile phone at the time.
He also dismissed the claim that Diana’s voicemails were hacked as “total speculation” and “without any evidential basis whatsoever”.
Proceedings are due to conclude by the end of June, with Mr Justice Fancourt expected to give his written ruling later in the year.