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British author Catherine Aird once wrote, “If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to serve as a horrible warning.” Perhaps she was thinking of her fellow countryman, Piers Morgan, when she penned those words. Having essentially been forced out of Britain for journalistic wrongdoing, Morgan came to America, where he impressed the suits at CNN with his almost upper-class British accent and his smug Leftism. Coming from Britain, which is about a decade ahead of America in terms of economic and social policies, he is a horrible warning about our American media’s dreams for the future.
But just who is Piers Morgan? Until he popped up in Larry King’s old seat at CNN, most Americans just thought of him as the really mean British judge on America’s Got Talent, sharing space with Sharon Osbourne’s universal Mommy figure, and David Hasselhoff’s cheery goofball. In fact, though, Morgan had a long, although not respectable, career in British media.
Piers had an unexceptional childhood in middle class England, although he does share one interesting trait with Barack Obama — both lost their fathers at an early age. While Obama’s father simply vanished, reappearing briefly in his life when Obama was a young man, Piers’ father died when Piers was an infant. His mother, left a widow with four children, remarried the stepfather who raised Piers.
Piers studied journalism at Harlow College, and eventually ended up working at Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun, one of the many tabloids that dominates the British media. In 1994, when he was only 28, Piers left The Sun to become editor of Rupert Murdoch’s New of the World, a tabloid that was sleazy even by British tabloid standards. Although the paper touched upon the stories of the day, its focus was not serious reportage or analysis. Instead, it was a mixture of the sordid shenanigans in which celebrities and ordinary Brits regularly engaged.
Piers quickly became famous as News of the World’s youngest editor in half a century, but he certainly wasn’t a good example during his time there. Sinking low even by tabloid standards, he refused to allow public figures any vestige of privacy, claiming that they had utterly abandoned any claims to privacy once they became famous.
After offending and aggravating people for a couple of years while at the News of the World, Piers jumped ship again, this time ending up at Daily Mirror, yet another British tabloid. There, on the eve of a England’s match against Germany in the semi-finals of the 1996 Euro football (or, as we say, soccer) championships, editor Piers approved a headline saying “Achtung! Surrender.” The uproar was so great that Piers actually apologized.