44-year-old Piers Morgan is best known as a panel judge on the popular television variety series “America’s Got Talent” and its across-the-pond sister show, “Britain’s Got Talent.”
In fact, it was only natural that Piers Morgan would find fame and fortune as a television celebrity in America only because he had reinvented himself several times during his career. Most media careers, especially in Europe, never survive one scandal let alone two.
While Morgan had some television experience as a guest on various UK shows, he was primarily known for controversies while serving as an editor for popular British national tabloids, including Rupert Murdoch’s “News of the World” and “The Daily Mirror.”
Piers Morgan and the Tabloids
Morgan was born Piers Stefan Pughe-Morgan in 1965. He graduated from college with a journalism degree and began writing entertainment news columns for small South London newspapers.
His first national newspaper job was as an entertainment columnist for “The Sun.” Soon his “Bizarre” column became a popular feature. Each column typically included young Morgan posing with a celebrity. This became his trademark as well as his foray into the world of show business.
In 1993 Morgan was hired by Rupert Murdoch and made editor in chief of “News of the World.” At age 28, he was the youngest UK national news editor since 1937.
In 1996 Morgan was hired as editor in chief of “The Daily Mirror.” After the 9/11 attacks, Morgan began deemphasizing The Daily Mirror’s celebrity tabloid style for serious news.
Piers Morgan and Controversy
Throughout his tabloid journalism career, Piers Morgan has thrived on feuds with celebrities and especially with members of the royal family after the death of Princess Diana in 1997. Most controversial were the publishing of private letters between Diana and James Hewitt, her alleged lover.
In 2000, Morgan became subject to legal scrutiny. He was accused of buying a computer company’s stock on inside information obtained before The Mirror’s “City Slickers” financial column was to publish its “buy” recommendation. Note, however, that after four years of litigation, Piers Morgan was cleared of all charges. Also note that shortly after the accusations he sold all shares of the stock and promised to give all profits to charity.
His second major controversy came in 2004. As a vocal critic of British troop participation in the Iraq war, Morgan published photos of British soldiers “apparently abusing” Iraqi prisoners of war. There were immediate doubts as to the authenticity of the photos and Piers Morgan refused to reveal the sources. The British army claimed that the photos were not taken in Iraq, but in Lancashire. Unfortunately, the soldiers in the photos were not identifiable because they were wearing hoods. The Daily Mirror fired Piers Morgan and published a public apology that questioned the authenticity of the photos. To this day, Morgan stands by the photos’ authenticity and decries the newspaper’s public apology.
Piers Morgan on Television
In 2006 Simon Cowell chose his friend Piers Morgan as his panel replacement on “America’s Got Talent” only because he didn’t want to violate a non-competition clause in his “American Idol” contract.
On the American show, he’s brutally blunt and snide as he shatters the dreams of show business hopefuls. This is the “British villain” role made popular by Simon Cowell on “American Idol”. For that reason alone, it’s no surprise that both series were created by Cowell, who sits as a co-panelist with Piers Morgan on “Britain’s Got Talent.” On the UK show, Morgan serves more as a voice of reason while Cowell, as expected, preserves his villain role.
Piers Morgan is also the author of eight books, including three volumes of his memoirs.