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Morgan On Marcus Rashford: Did Someone Say ‘Hypocrisy’?

A recent column by the former Editor of the Daily Mirror on the superstar footballer revealed more about himself than the 26-year-old England player, writes Mic Wright

Piers Morgan. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA/Alamy

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When Piers Morgan was 26, he’d been running The Sun’s showbiz column, Bizarre, for two years.

A self-confessed “rampant egomaniac” who used his pages to get himself “pictured all the time with famous people” who “didn’t know [him] from Adam”, he was just two years away from being anointed Editor of the News of the World by Rupert Murdoch.

His behaviour there, and in his subsequent role as Editor of the Daily Mirror, is still being unpicked now, including at the High Court in December 2023, when Justice Fancourt found that senior executives at the Mirror, including Morgan, were aware that phone-hacking was taking place.

A puffed-up and pompous Morgan delivered a statement outside his west-London home denying ever hacking a phone or asking anyone to hack a phone. 

That’s the same Piers Morgan who wrote that someone told him how phone-hacking was achieved in his 2001 ‘diaries’ The Insider; described listening to a tape of one of Heather Mills’ phone messages – a clip of her then husband Paul McCartney “pleading with her to come back… and even [singing] We Can Work It Out” – in a 2006 Daily Mail column; and explained how it worked over lunch at the Mirror’s HQ while teasing Ulrika Jonsson about details of her private conversations, according to Jeremy Paxman’s evidence at the Leveson Inquiry. 

Putting the hotly-denied phone-hacking to one side, Morgan’s twenties were a period when he twice published pictures of well-known women at addiction clinics – first the then wife of Earl Spencer shown leaving an addictive disorder clinic in the News of the World; then supermodel Naomi Campbell papped entering a Narcotics Anonymous meeting by the Mirror, which led to a very costly privacy judgement against the publisher.

Morgan responded to that loss by raging that it was “a good day for lying, drug-abusing prima donnas”. Of course, Morgan, who has been engaging in public flounces ever since, knows nothing about being a prima donna. 

Morgan was 31 when he used the Mirror’s front page to scream ‘Achtung Surrender!’ on the eve of England men’s football team’s match with Germany in the semi-finals of Euro ‘96. He was 35 when he was embroiled in a scandal over share tipping, judged to have breached the financial journalism code of conduct by the Press Complaints Commission but cleared by the Department of Trade and Industry.

That’s just a selection of the greatest (s)hits of Morgan’s early career – and there’s a good reason for reminding you of them.

As part of his ongoing effort to be named not just ‘Hypocrite of the Year’ but ‘Hypocrite of the Century’, Morgan used a recent Sun column to dispense advice to 26-year-old Manchester United star Marcus Rashford.

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The footballer made himself an enemy of the right-wing press and the papers have been delighting in his recent crimes: the kind of drinking and waywardness that would be absolutely unsurprising for any other man in his twenties, but which must be made into a subject of endless debate if an athlete indulges in them. 

Presented as an open letter – possibly the smuggest conceit available to the lazy newspaper columnist – Morgan’s piece was in equal parts patronising, sanctimonious, and self-aggrandising.  

“It’s customary at such a turbulent stage of a Manchester United superstar’s career for them to sit down with me for a tell-all Uncensored interview, as Cristiano Ronaldo did 14 months ago,” he began. 

What Morgan didn’t mention is that he would crawl over broken glass for Rashford to rock up on an episode of Piers Morgan Unwatched, TalkTV’s ludicrously expensive ‘flagship’ show. If the player did, for some unknown reason, make an appearance, you can be sure that Morgan’s obsequious side would be on show rather than the faux-tough guy act he opted for in the column. 

Morgan – a man with more gall than a complete library of Asterix books – asked Rashford if he’s proud of himself and, even more egregiously, whether his mum is proud of him. The behaviour that’s meant to have outweighed Rashford’s previous performances on the pitch and his campaigning on Free School Meals is “a 12-hour tequila-fuelled bender in Belfast” and lying about being sick to miss training.

That’s it. That’s unwise for a man on the kind of money Rashford’s paid but hardly justification for a sermon from Reverend Morgan of Little Self-Awareness. 

Morgan’s own contract is worth £17 million over two years and he’s hardly smashing in the goals for his ageing antipodean gaffer, Rupert Murdoch. Should a man with lacklustre ratings but an unshakeable ego really be sneering about “[young] players [strutting] around like world champions when their trophy cabinets are [empty]”?

The idea that Morgan and The Sun aren’t not-so-secretly delighted that Rashford is struggling is even less convincing than his teeth and tan. 

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Mic Wright writes the The Bad Press Awards column, exclusive to the print edition of Byline Times.

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