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McCartney says he's going to police over ex's hacking claim

Friday, August 5, 2011

LONDON -- Former Beatle Paul McCartney said Thursday he would contact police over his ex-wife's claim that the couple had been spied upon by a British newspaper.

In comments to U.S. television journalists delivered via videolink from Cincinnati, Ohio, McCartney said that he would be in touch with law enforcement as soon as he was finished with his summer tour.

"I will be talking to them about that," McCartney told the Television Critics Association in Los Angeles.

"I don't think it's great. I do think it is a horrendous violation of privacy, and I do think it's been going on a long time, and I do think more people than we know knew about it. But I think I should just listen and hear what the facts are before I comment," he said.

McCartney is the latest celebrity to be dragged into Britain's phone hacking scandal, which centers on allegations that journalists routinely eavesdropped on private phone messages, bribed police officers for tips and illegally obtained confidential information for stories.

Until recently the scandal was largely been limited to the British arm of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, but an allegation made Wednesday by McCartney's former wife Heather Mills implicates the Trinity Mirror PLC group of newspapers, and CNN celebrity interviewer Piers Morgan, who once edited the group's flagship Daily Mirror tabloid.

Mills' allegation, made Wednesday in an interview with the BBC, was that a senior Mirror journalist admitted to her that his paper had been spying on her messages. While the broadcaster said that the unidentified man was not Piers Morgan, the former model's allegation echoes a claim Morgan himself made back in 2006 -- a few months after the couple began divorce proceedings.

In an article published by the Daily Mail, Morgan said that he had been played a tape of a message McCartney had left on Mills' cellphone in the wake of one of their fights.

"It was heartbreaking," Morgan wrote. "He sounded lonely, miserable and desperate, and even sang ‘We Can Work It Out' into the answerphone."

Questions over how Piers Morgan came to hear such a message have led several British lawmakers to call on him to return to the U.K. and explain himself.

Morgan has so far not offered comment on his article, although he did describe Mills' allegation as unsubstantiated and noted that the judge in the couple's divorce case had cast aspersions on her credibility.

He has repeatedly denied having ever ordered anyone to spy on others' voice mails, while his former newspaper group has insisted that it's journalists obey the law.

Mills' office on Thursday declined to elaborate on what she told the BBC, but said that the 43-year-old "looks forward to receiving Piers Morgan's answer as to how he knew the content of her private voice-mail messages."

Several British parliamentarians have also said that Morgan has questions to answer -- among them Conservative legislator Therese Coffey.

"I think it would help everybody, including himself and this investigation, if he was able to say more about why he wrote what he did in 2006," Coffey told the BBC Wednesday.

Morgan's publicist, Meghan McPartland, said that as far as she knew the CNN star -- who is spending his summer working as a judge on "America's Got Talent" -- was not returning to England to answer questions.

Morgan himself made light of the calls on his Twitter feed, saying he found it "so heartwarming that everyone in U.K.'s missing me so much they want me to come home."

In a separate development, the publisher of Britain's Daily Mail newspaper announced late Thursday that it was reviewing its editorial procedures. No reason for the review was given, but Morgan is one of many media veterans who've claimed that phone hacking and other shady practices were common across Britain's newspaper industry.

A similar review is already under way at the Mirror.

Associated Newspapers Ltd., which publishes the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, and London's free Metro newspaper, said in a terse statement that Liz Hartley, the company's head of editorial legal services, would be among those working on the review.

Few other details were revealed, and Hartley did not return emails seeking further information.


Frazier Moore and Noaki Schwartz in Los Angeles and David Stringer and Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.


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