The case highlighted the Mirror’s embrace of the wheeling, dealing, get-rich-quick mentality of the time. Britain was enjoying a boom, and bankers and financial traders were rocks stars rather than villains. One Labour minister famously quipped that his party was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.” So was Morgan, and the once proudly socialist Mirror.
But — true to form — when both public and elite opinion later turned against the bankers, Morgan turned with it. He told a panel show in the wake of the financial crisis that he’d like to take bankers to Afghanistan “to show them a real day’s work.”
Ironically, Morgan’s attempt to move the Mirror back to the left and to pursue more serious journalism led to the end of his newspaper career. In 2003, with many Britons appearing to oppose the looming military action against Iraq, Morgan decided the paper should oppose an invasion in a bid to attract anti-war readers. Once the battle was joined, however, public opinion swung behind the endeavor, and within weeks the Mirror’s circulation plummeted to a historic low.
Morgan didn’t relent, and in 2004, desperate for a British Abu Ghraib story with which to undermine support for the war effort, the Mirror published photos purporting to show British soldiers torturing civilians in Iraq.
The photos were quickly exposed as crude fakes, and Morgan, who claimed the paper had been hoaxed, was fired.
While Morgan’s days in British newspapers are over, the phone-hacking scandal could come back to haunt him. He shrugged off allegations of hacking during an inquiry into the scandal, but in October four individuals launched court proceedings claiming their phones were hacked by papers including the Mirror during the time Morgan was editor.
Morgan chose to reinvent himself as a TV personality, intent on joining the ranks of celebrities he’d previously sent his reporters out to stalk and harass. After mixed success in Britain, Morgan got his big break in the U.S. in 2006 when he became a judge on America’s Got Talent.
When Morgan was chosen to replace Larry King at CNN, he saw the opportunity to make a name for himself in the U.S. as a journalist, and to add gravitas and respectability to the fortune and degree of fame he’d garnered from shows such as AGT and Celebrity Apprentice. And while Morgan is not at heart a liberal, he’s reinvented himself as one in the U.S. because he wants desperately to ingratiate himself with the country’s entertainment and media elites.