So, it looks like pretty much a done deal that Piers Morgan, the British judge on America’s Got Talent, will replace Larry King in an interview-style show on CNN during the nine o’clock hour. Reuters is even reporting that he could make $5 to $6 million a year in a three-year contract — even though King himself professes to not really know who Morgan is, and would prefer the job go to his frequent sub Ryan Seacrest. Does that strike you as weird, that this guy who currently spends his prime-time hours watching men fold frying pans in half with their bare hands will soon be helming one of the most storied franchises in cable news? If it does, that’s because you may not know all the details of his history back in London. He has a lot more qualifications that make him suitable.
Here is a list of things you should know about Piers Morgan:
• He started off editing the London Sun’s infamous gossip column, “Bizarre,” home of all news regarding whatever trashy British celebs are behaving the poorest at the moment. (If you don’t know who Jordan is, or Jedward, or whoever is on the cast of Britain’s Big Brother at the moment, don’t bother clicking through.)
• He was quickly promoted by Rupert Murdoch to edit News of the World at only 28. That’s the rag that specializes in paying for stories and arranging complex stings, like the one that ensnared the Duchess of York.
• Two years later he took over the editor’s post at the slightly more serious Daily Mirror, a position he held for eight years. During that time, he attempted to take the red top to a more highbrow position.
• He once married Paris Hilton in Vegas.
• Last month, for real, he married fellow journalist Celia Walden, who is the daughter of a former Tory MP. He has three kids from a previous marriage.
• In 2004 he was sensationally fired from his post after authorizing the publication of Abu Ghraib–style photos showing British soldiers torturing and urinating on an Iraqi prisoner. In short order, the photos were proven to be extremely crude fakes and Morgan was accused of rushing to publish the scandal before thoroughly checking it. But that was not before the public image of the British Army took a severe blow. Reportedly, Morgan was unrepentant to the end, refused to apologize, and had to be escorted out of his office.
• He didn’t “go to university.”
• It was his friend Simon Cowell who overruled NBC brass and got him the job as a judge on America’s Got Talent.
• While at the Mirror, he was found to have breached the journalist’s Code of Conduct for buying stocks on tips from his investment columnists before they published, making him rich when his readers rushed to follow suit. He nearly lost his job over it.
• But he is a skilled interviewer: For GQ, he once got Liberal leader Nick Clegg (this year’s British election sensation) to admit how many women he’d slept with.
• He once broke three ribs falling off a Segway.
• He owns and is editorial director of a string of newspapers for children.
• He won The Celebrity Apprentice in 2008.
• He has actually already hosted a number of documentary and interview series, including: Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, Piers Morgan on … , The Dark Side of Fame with Piers Morgan, Morgan & Platell, and The Importance of Being Famous.