Piers Morgan. Even his name sounds snooty and British. A far cry from the plain talking, Brooklyn-bred Larry King, Piers Morgan will take over the CNN interview show Larry King Live after the suspender-wearing Larry fades to black on December 16.
So, who is Piers Morgan and where did he come from? Piers Morgan is a 45-year-old media star from England, best known to Americans as a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice and one of the judges on America’s Got Talent. Although he may seem more amiable than the acerbic Simon Cowell (with whom he co-judged the British version of America’s Got Talent), don’t be fooled. As a former tabloid editor, Morgan has a knack for attracting enemies the way Walmart attracts tacky dressers. He even compared himself once to marmite, according to a 2009 profile of Morgan in the UK Guardian. Marmite is a brownish food spread made of yeast sludge that British people love to hate.
Perhaps the most controversial incident in Morgan’s media career as a chat show host and tabloid editor was being fired from the UK Daily Mirror in 2004. As editor of the Mirror, Morgan approved the publication of photographs that showed Iraqi prisoners being abused by British soldiers. The only problem was, the photographs turned out to be fakes. This mistake in judgment forced the Mirror to run the headline “SORRY… WE WERE HOAXED,” toppling Morgan from his throne as editor of the Mirror and turning him into an inadvertent “casualty” of the Iraq war.
The resilient Morgan bounced back and eventually became an even bigger fish as a television star, first in England and now in the United States. In a classic case of foreshadowing, Morgan produce a documentary for the BBC in 2003 called “The Importance of Being Famous” just one year before his infamous ouster from the Mirror. The documentary focused on how the media covers celebrities and how people become famous.
Fittingly, Piers Morgan will soon be one of the chief operators of the media fame machine in the United States when he takes over as host for Larry King Live.