Piers Morgan has been no stranger to controversy throughout his career as a journalist and broadcaster, with his departure from GMB over comments about Meghan Markle the latest in a long line of ups and downs.
Morgan left ITV on Tuesday after calling into question Markle’s sincerity in a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey when she spoke about feeling suicidal while working as a royal. It led to 41,000 complaints to Ofcom and Morgan storming off the GMB set.
He has since doubled down on his views, tweeting: “I said I didn’t believe Meghan Markle in her Oprah interview. I’ve had time to reflect on this opinion, and I still don’t. If you did, OK. Freedom of speech is a hill I’m happy to die on.”
Now 55, Morgan has 7.8m followers on Twitter and has gained an army of supporters, many of whom see him as a passionate defender of free speech who is willing to take on the “woke” politics du jour. But his celebrity friends often give the impression that he’s only having fun.
He started his journalism career in newspapers but was forced out over controversy, transitioning to broadcasting with a move to the US where he had a career as a reality TV competition judge and an interviewer, before returning to the UK as a presenter on ITV’s GMB.
At GMB he brought opinionated news coverage to British TV, sounding off about hot topics and talking to guests in an often combative style that has won him both supporters and detractors. He also writes columns for British GQ and Mail Online.
Morgan has been questioned by police over the phone hacking that took place at the Mirror while he was editor – something he denies knowledge of – but has never been arrested or faced charges.
His ability to court controversy was once remarked on by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whom Morgan worked for at the start of his career. According to Murdoch’s former right-hand man at News International, Les Hinton, the Sun and Times owner reportedly said: “The trouble with Piers [Morgan] is that his balls are bigger than his brains.”
Perhaps most apt in summarising Morgan’s career to date is a quote on his own Twitter profile, which reads: “One day you’re the cock of the walk, the next a feather duster.”
Below we take a look at Morgan’s highs and lows over four decades in the media…
Piers Morgan’s career timeline
Piers Morgan was born on 30 March, 1965, in Surrey. He went on to study for his NCTJ diploma in journalism at Harlow College, Essex, before working on newspapers in south London and Surrey.
Hired as editor of The Sun’s Bizarre showbiz section, kicking off his Fleet Street career.
Appointed editor-in-chief of the News of the World aged 29, making him the youngest national newspaper editor in more than 50 years at the time.
Moves to rival tabloid the Daily Mirror as editor.
Buys £20,000 of shares in a company the day before it is set to be tipped as a good investment in the Mirror’s City Slickers financial column. Morgan is later cleared of wrongdoing by the Mirror board, and by the Department of Trade and Industry following a four-year probe. It was reported that he sold the shares and promised to give the profits to charity.
Morgan plants Mirror graduate trainee Ryan Parry as a royal footman at Buckingham Palace, a job he held for two months undercover, in what the paper described as “the biggest royal security scandal ever”.
As well as making a mockery of the £10m security arrangements surrounding the visit of US president George Bush, the nation was riveted by details Parry revealed about the domestic arrangements of the Queen and Prince Philip, including their penchant for Tupperware and eating their breakfast while listening to Radio 2.
Mirror loses privacy case at Supreme Court against supermodel Naomi Campbell over pictures showing her attending a drug help group. In response, Morgan says it is “a good day for lying, drug-abusing prima donnas who want to have their cake with the media and the right to then shamelessly guzzle with their Cristal champagne”.
Morgan prints pictures purportedly showing British soldiers “torturing” prisoners of the Iraq War on the front page of the Mirror. The images are later revealed to be a hoax and Morgan is fired as the paper’s editor.
Buys Press Gazette with partner Matthew Freud, setting up Press Gazette Ltd.
Joins Simon Cowell as a judge on US TV talent show America’s Got Talent.
Press Gazette Ltd goes into administration (title is bought by Wilmington Media).
Joins the judging panel of Britain’s Got Talent (until 2010).
Wins the US celebrity version of The Apprentice where he strikes up a friendship with the show’s star, Donald Trump.
Piers Morgan’s Life Stories launches on ITV, a series of in-depth interviews with celebrities. (Guests in 2021 included actor Rupert Everett, boxer Chris Eubank and reality TV star Gemma Collins.)
Morgan replaces veteran interviewer Larry King as host of CNN’s flagship nightly talk show, which is renamed Piers Morgan Live, with Morgan reportedly signing a four-year deal worth £5.5m. He uses the platform to take on the US gun lobby and campaign for stricter gun laws.
Morgan is sacked from his CNN talk show after his audience drops from around 2m to 270,000. He told the New York Times: “It’s been a painful period and lately we have taken a bath in the ratings.
“Look, I am a British guy debating American cultural issues, including guns, which has been very polarising, and there is no doubt that there are many in the audience who are tired of me banging on about it. That’s run its course…”
Joins ITV as co-host of Good Morning Britain alongside Susanna Reid. He tweets of his appointment: “Brace yourselves Britain.” Morgan earns a reputation as a combative interviewer not afraid to spout his opinion and helps grow the show’s audience from 600,000 to 1.7m.
In a tweet responding to a Telegraph interview with Will Young in which the singer reveals he left Strictly Come Dancing because of his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Morgan says: “Will Young does not have PTSD. He has WNTS – Whiny Needy Twerp Syndrome.”
Will Young does not have PTSD.
He has WNTS – Whiny Needy Twerp Syndrome. https://t.co/to792xUSul
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) May 29, 2017
Earlier the same month, during Mental Health Week, he tweeted that Britain should “man up” over mental illness.
34 million UK adults are mentally ill? What utter nonsense.
Man up, Britain & focus on those who REALLY need help. https://t.co/C21SAg09AL
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) May 10, 2017
Secures world exclusive interview with President Donald Trump, but faces criticism for what some described as a “sycophantic” approach and failure to hold power to account.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) January 28, 2018
Second interview with President Trump, this time at the White House. Morgan defends his interviews with Trump, saying they are “as combative as any of those that I have ever seen”.
Morgan’s warnings over the pandemic on Twitter and hounding of Government ministers on GMB over their failures in dealing with the growing crisis earn him plaudits.
Publishes book, Wake Up: Why the world has gone nuts, taking on cancel culture.
Leaves ITV over comments about Meghan Markle, which leads to 41,000 viewers complaints to Ofcom and a heated exchange with co-presenter Alex Beresford about race.
What’s next for Piers Morgan?
Some have speculated that Morgan may be lining up to appear on Rupert Murdoch’s new TV station, News UK TV, while others have said it could be GB News, the channel fronted by Andrew Neil – both set to launch this year.
He might have left our TV screens for now, but if Morgan’s career shows us anything it’s that he’s unlikely to be out of the public eye for long.
Picture: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni