From a family holiday in Disney World, Florida, Louise Mensch issues an apology to CNN’s embattled celebrity anchor Piers Morgan, and reveals a colourful past.
Conservative MP Louise Mensch has faced the wrath of former Red Top editor Piers Morgan since she accused him of boasting about phone hacking in his book last week.
Mrs Mensch now admits she misquoted Mr Morgan’s book while questioning Rupert and James Murdoch in the Select Committee hearing.
In a letter to the Committee chairman John Whittingdale, she wrote: “I must apologise to Mr Morgan and the Committee for this error about his book.”
Mrs Mensch claims she misread a story in the press which she believed had alleged Mr Morgan wrote about personally hacking phones in his book The Insider, boasting that he had won Scoop of the Year thanks to the “little trick”.
The high-profile hearing was beamed across the globe, but Mrs Mensch’s comments were protected by Parliamentary Privilege – which meant she could not be sued for libel.
Mr Morgan, who is now a presenter on CNN, demanded an apology for what he called “a smear on my name, CNN’s name, The Daily Mirror’s name”.
The two have been locked in an extraordinary battle of wills in the days since; on-air, on Twitter and through the wider media. But after today’s apology, Mr Morgan tweeted simply: “Apology graciously accepted @LouiseMensch – thank you.”
FactCheck: Did Piers Morgan boast about phone hacking?
Meanwhile, Mrs Mensch fought allegations over her own conduct, issuing a candid response to an email she recieved from an investigative journalist.
The MP published the email, which she had received three days after the Committee hearing from “David Jones Investigative Journalists”.
I am not a very good dancer and must apologise to any and all journalists who were forced to watch me dance that night at Ronnie Scott’s. Louise Mensch MP
The email claimed: “Whilst working at EMI, in the 1990s, you took drugs with Nigel Kennedy at Ronnie Scott’s in Birmingham, including dancing on a dance floor, whilst drunk, with Mr Kennedy, in front of journalists.”
Mrs Mensch said the incident “sounds highly probable”. She added: “Since I was in my twenties, I’m sure it was not the only incident of the kind; we all do idiotic things when young. I am not a very good dancer and must apologise to any and all journalists who were forced to watch me dance that night at Ronnie Scott’s.”
Mrs Mensch, who is a well-known chick-lit author under her maiden name Louise Bagshawe, also hit back over claims she had written one of her novels at work and was consequently fired by EMI.
With much aplomb, Mrs Mensch responded: “It was all done after work hours. It was also not why I was fired by EMI. ‘Leaving work early’ and ‘missing the odd day at work’ along with ‘inappropriate dress’ were the reasons quoted to me.”
Despite the email claiming to have evidence of such offences, nothing has been published so far.
Mrs Mensch said: “I have not the slightest intention of being deterred from asking how far the culture of hacking and blagging extended in Fleet Street.”
Look in The Mirror
It was a point she drove home in her letter to Mr Whittingdale: “The question for me was always: was illegality confined to the News of the World and News International titles, or whether those papers had an air of entitlement in a Fleet Street culture where hacking and blagging was in fact widespread.”
Both Mrs Mensch and the Liberal Democrat MP Adrian Sanders have claimed in Parliament that the Daily Mirror was suspected of using phone-hacking to reveal Ulrika Jonsson’s affair with Sven Goran-Eriksson.
I have not the slightest intention of being deterred from asking how far the culture of hacking and blagging extended in Fleet Street. Louise Mensch MP
It was the story that won Scoop of the Year in 2003 under Mr Morgan’s editorship.
Both Mr Morgan and Trinity Mirror deny the claims, with the latter insisting that “our journalists work within the criminal law and the PCC (Press Complaints Commission) code of conduct”.
However, earlier this week Trinity Mirror launched a six-week investigation into the editorial standards at all its national and regional titles, which include the Sunday Mirror, the People and Scotland’s Daily Record.
Mrs Mensch welcomed the move today, adding that in her comments to the Select Committee she “would have done much better to stick to quoting the figures for the Daily Mirror in ‘Operation Motorman’, as identified in the report What Price Privacy.”
Operation Motorman was an investigation into the private eye Steve Whittamore, who was convicted of passing information obtained from the police national database to newspapers. The What Price Privacy report found that Trinity Mirror journalists had the highest number of dealings with him.