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CNN's Piers Morgan drawn into hacking scandal

/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

Former tabloid editor Piers Morgan accused media and bloggers of being "lying smearers" Wednesday after a 2009 interview surfaced in which he appeared to admit that hacking phones for reporting purposes was tolerated on his watch.

Morgan, who edited Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World in the mid-1990s and went on to edit rival The Daily Mirror, was asked by the BBC's Kirsty Young how he felt about "dealing with people who rake through bins for a living, people who tap people's phones, people who take secret photographs."

Morgan, who replaced interviewer Larry King on CNN this past January, began his answer by saying that "not a lot of that went on," but then acknowledged that newspapers he worked for used information obtained by these methods.

"A lot of it was done by third parties rather than the staff themselves. That's not to defend it because obviously you were running the results of their work," he said in an excerpt of the 2009 interview posted on the BBC's website on Wednesday.

"I'm quite happy to be parked in the corner of the tabloid beast and to have to sit here defending all these things I used to get up to. I make no pretense about the stuff we used to do," he said.

The excerpt was also released by The Daily Telegraph.

The interview was resurfaced shortly after Guido Fawkes, a UK political blogger who describes his posts as "Tittle Tattle, gossip and rumours," published what he said was "vocal and written confessions" that Morgan published hacked stories.

Morgan tweeted on Wednesday morning, "I don't mind being wrongly smeared with all this #Hackgate stuff, I'd just rather it wasn't done by liars, druggie ex-bankrupts and conmen."

He later tweeted, "For those who don't know who @GuidoFawkes is, here's his biog. Not exactly Woodward/Bernstein is it?" He linked to a post on a different blog that said "the Fawkes blog has tried to smear Morgan based on inflating quotes from old interviews, hearsay about past stories, and even recycled items ..." It also accused the Telegraph of faulty reporting.

The phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World has rocked Murdoch's empire, prompting the media baron to close the title, fire top executives and abandon a bid to buy U.K. broadcaster BSkyB.

After a reporter and private investigator who worked for the paper were convicted and sent to jail for phone-hacking in 2007, the company said the practices were limited to a single rogue employee.

But more victims emerged and the crisis catapulted to a new level earlier in July when The Guardian newspaper reported that the alleged victims included the families of British troops killed in combat and murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Trinity Mirror, the owner of the Daily Mirror, on Tuesday ordered an investigation into whether journalists there also engaged in phone hacking after a former journalist told The Independent the practice was "endemic" at the paper.

Later Wednesday, Morgan said on Twitter, "I'll be making no further comment on this #Hackgate nonsense. But important for everyone to know exactly who these lying smearers are."