Piers Morgan on failure, grief and the unsubtle art of not giving a f**k
May 5, 2023. Series 7. Episode 64
Joining us in this episode is Britain’s, arguably the world’s, most followed journalist – former newspaper editor, presenter, news broadcaster, author and self-confessed controversialist Piers Morgan. As you’ll most likely be aware, Piers is someone with opinions. Those clear views, alongside an absolute obsession with news and an unrelenting work ethic, have driven Piers to tremendous success both here in the UK and in the US.
But there have also been high-profile moments of failure and drama. Career setbacks and criticism that would have sent most people diving under their duvet – death threats as a result of stories he’s run, sacked as Editor of the Daily Mirror and, more recently, a dramatic exit from ITV’s Good Morning Britain. And there’s also been personal trauma too.
Piers’ response has always been to turn those moments of crisis into new opportunity and inspiration and to go again. So, this is a conversation about crisis with someone who’s created and lived more than a few, and who, you will be unsurprised to hear, has a very clear opinion on where we’re all heading from that resilience perspective.
Piers’ Crisis Comforts:
1. A pint of Harvey’s. I go to my village pub; see the village boys and we’ll have a pint and it has to be from the local brewery Harvey’s. A pint of Harvey’s makes all the troubles go away.
2. Montecristo No.2 Cigar. It’s got to be number two. I’ll thoroughly enjoy luxuriating in a big fat cigar – everything feels better when you have one of those.
3. A Rocky film. The best film is the first one. I love the Rocky Balboa story, I love his attitude.
Buy Wake Up: Why the world has gone nuts – https://amzn.to/3LN5X1p
Buy The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade – https://amzn.to/42c0nM1
Piers’ Twitter: https://twitter.com/piersmorgan?s=20
Piers Morgan Uncensored YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/PiersMorganUncensored
Piers’ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/piersmorgan/?hl=en
Stream/Buy ‘Allies’ by Some Velvet Morning: https://ampl.ink/qp6bm
Some Velvet Morning Website: www.somevelvetmorning.co.uk
Your Daily Practice: Sleep by Myndstream: https://open.spotify.com/track/5OX9XgJufFz9g63o2Dv2i5?si=b2f9397c92084682
Host – Andy Coulson
CWC production team: Louise Difford, Ed Isaacs and Jane Sankey
With special thanks to Global
Full episode transcript:
Piers Morgan: [0:00:00] Obviously I’m pretty self-confident, I always have been, and I make no apology for that. But I think my way of dealing with it is a lot healthier. Accentuate the positive. It’s not even a glass half-full in my case, it could be a glass that is literally that full, but I’m going to pretend it’s that full, and f*** you, right? And it’s very empowering to be like that. It makes you feel better. I genuinely don’t care.
Andy Coulson: [0:00:27] Welcome to Crisis What Crisis, the podcast that aims to guide you towards a more resilient life and all that it might throw at you. If this is your first time with us then please do hit subscribe wherever you’re listening or watching, it really does help to make sure these stories reach more people, which is why we’re here.
Today I’m delighted to say I’m joined by Piers Morgan, Britain’s, arguably the world’s, most followed journalist. Former newspaper editor, presenter, news broadcaster, author and self-confessed controversialist. Piers is someone with opinions, and has never, in the thirty five years that we’ve been friends, been afraid to share them. Those clear views, together with an obsession with news and an unbelievable work ethic, have driven Piers to success here and in the States.
But there have also been high-profile career setbacks, drama and criticism that would have finished off most people. Moments that I know impacted him personally as well as professionally. Death threats as a result of stories he’s run, sacked as editor of The Daily Mirror, and more recently the dramatic exit from a job he loved at Good Morning Britain.
His response though to those seemingly career-threatening, career-ending moments, has always been to turn crisis into a new opportunity and to go again.
Now on his latest show, Piers Morgan Uncensored, he’s taking on the world of woke, or as he puts it, “Cancelling cancel culture.” A near lone voice in the culture wars that seem to be dominating our lives, and as we’ve argued on this podcast before, weakened our collective ability to deal with the difficulties and struggles that are part of life.
So this is a conversation about crisis with someone who has created and lived more than a few, and who you will be unsurprised to hear has a very clear opinion on where we’re all heading from that resilience perspective. Do not expect to hear the words, “You’re worth it,” in this episode.
Piers Morgan, welcome to Crisis What Crisis.
Piers Morgan: [0:02:22] Thank you.
Andy Coulson: [0:02:24] How are you?
Piers Morgan: [0:02:25] I am worth it. Thank you.
Andy Coulson: [0:02:30] It’s great to have you.
Piers Morgan: [0:02:31] Although slightly unnerving, given how long we’ve known each other.
Andy Coulson: [0:02:33] Yes, indeed. Piers, in preparation for today I have dipped back into your book, The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade. It’s still a cracking read. Published remarkably eighteen years ago, not much has happened since then.
Piers Morgan: [0:02:49] Arsenal have won the League since then.
Andy Coulson: [0:02:52] If the aim of the diary is to capture the era that it’s focussed on, and it definitely does that, the final decade really of the tabloids’ total dominance, pre-internet, pre-social media, rather quaint references to angry messages that you’re sending to important people via fax.
Piers Morgan: [0:03:13] Yes, I know.
Andy Coulson: [0:03:14] So it captures the time. But also reading it again it captures you pretty accurately. It’s funny at times, energetic, ballsy, a stunning exercise in self-promotion, but also pretty revealing about your approach to life, would you agree?
Piers Morgan: [0:03:35] Yes. And I think- I had a brilliant editor called Jake Lingwood on that, who was merciless in the editing. So the original draft was quite different in places, and he was just saying, “Can I just say,” he said, “You come over as a complete wanker here.” And then we would have a long debate about whether it was good or bad that I would openly come over that way, and sometimes we kept it in and sometimes we kept it out. But it was this very interesting thing about how other people perceived you when often perhaps in the maelstrom of doing what you’re doing you’re not quite aware of how you’re coming over.
So it was an interesting, I think, exercise in that. But I felt that decade, looking back, has held the test of time of being in many ways a seminal decade for tabloid newspapers, for that relationship between media, politics, culture, society. You know, this was the era of the Blair revolution, of Princess Diana, Rupert Murdoch, all these people at the top of their game, all colliding in this extraordinary world that I was at the centre of. Albeit from a slightly outsider perspective.
Although I called it The Insider I wasn’t one of them, but I was hovering. And I think that that was a- it was very interesting period to live through as a newspaper editor, and then to write about it.
Andy Coulson: [0:04:55] What comes through, I think, in terms of the sort of, knowing you as long as I have, the kind of authentic Piers, what comes through is that you’re someone who is taking your career very seriously but is not taking life that seriously. Is that about right?
Piers Morgan: [0:05:14] Yes. I think- look, as you know, I come from a little village in Sussex where I went from a fee-paying prep school when I was 13 to the local comprehensive. And if you go in with my full name, Piers Stefan Pughe-Morgan, with a posh voice, to a comprehensive school, and you start lording it around as if you’re something special, you’re going to get, as I did, a smack in the face. Quite a few times, until eventually, fortunately, my brother who became a British Army Colonel, came to the school and began to smack everybody else in the face harder, and that stopped it.
But yes, it was a reckoning if you like of, life’s going to be quite tough, and if you think you’re special, or if you don’t have self-awareness, then you’re going to come a cropper. And I think the thing I would always say about myself is that I have a lot of self-awareness. I’m not deluded about any aspect about how I behave, how I come across now.
That wasn’t always the case, I know we’re going to touch on a few things early on where my idea of how I’d come across completely was contradicted by reality. But you learn from that, and you learn to realise what you’re actually like, and hopefully you have enough friends around you, you were one of them and always had been, other great friends from my village, from all walks of life, who are the ones who’d tap you on the shoulder and say, “You are being a prick, stop it.” You need that.
Andy Coulson: [0:06:41] The book was written after you were fired by The Mirror. It was the platform for your first comeback, really. But it’s the smaller moments as well, not the big dramas, that are quite revealing. Your appearance on Have I Got News For You, which feels like another age ago now-
Piers Morgan: [0:06:59] That was my first real television appearance.
Andy Coulson: [0:07:01] Your first TV appearance, right? Where you attempted to take on the presenters, and let’s just say that it didn’t go brilliantly. The Times said you were as funny as a flatworm, which was-
Piers Morgan: [0:07:12] Yes, I don’t think I even reached that lofty level.
Andy Coulson: [0:07:13] Which was one of the nicer comments. You say in the diary after you’re reading these reviews, because you thought it had gone brilliantly, right?
Piers Morgan: [0:07:20] Yes, and my mother who watched it thought that was great. But then my mother knew me. The public didn’t know who I was or what I was like. So I think that- it was interesting. An interesting test case now would be if you played it tomorrow, what would the reaction be? Because people know me better now, they’d probably see a lot of it was designed to be tongue in cheek or jokey or whatever.
But of course people didn’t know that, so they just thought, “Who is this complete idiot?” And I was completely stunned that I hadn’t nailed it in the way I thought. I thought I took them all down, Hislop, Merton, Deayton, they all got whipped, oho! And I got back to the office and they were like, “We’ve had a few calls from the readers,” you know, “It didn’t go great.” I said, “Really?”
Andy Coulson: [0:08:05] But you, you got a load of flack, I remember it at the time. You were baffled. But actually it’s not really bafflement is it? What it revealed, that little moment actually, was that you didn’t really care, did you, what people were saying?
Piers Morgan: [0:08:18] No.
Andy Coulson: [0:08:18] Because in your mind’s eye, “I said what I wanted to say, it was definitely me, I was definitely behaving in the way that I want to behave. It’s all their fault for not understanding my genius.”
Piers Morgan: [0:08:32] Yes, and I kind of take that view generally in life. If you don’t like me, that’s not on me, that’s on you. I’m quite comfortable about who I am. I’m quite comfortable in my own skin, I’m pretty confident, as you know I’ve always been that way. And I don’t really care what- particularly what some spotty geek in their mum’s dungeon on Twitter has to say about me. I don’t understand why anybody why anybody would, but some people do, you know? But I don’t, I just genuinely don’t care.
Andy Coulson: [0:09:00] I remember us being on holiday together, early ‘90s, I think we were in Jamaica. At this stage you’re the Bizarre editor of The Sun and I’m the Showbiz reporter, I think. And after a long day of drinking you told me that your plan, your master plan, was to become the next David Frost or Jonathan Ross, is what you said. That TV was ultimately where you wanted to be.
You loved newspapers, you loved newspaper people, but you knew then, and this was by the way at the start of your- relatively at the start of your newspaper career, that they would never make you as famous as you wanted to be.
Total clarity on what was ahead.
Piers Morgan: [0:09:38] Yes, and I mean look, you’re talking about somebody who from the age of 6 or 7 used to practice his autograph. I used to collect autographs avidly. I used to write to Prime Ministers, I used to write to sports people, I used to write to TV stars, and just collect their signatures. And in those days autographs were the thing, selfies didn’t exist obviously. And I used to practice mine religiously, with absolute conviction that one day I would be the one signing the autographs.
Ironically, when I finally got to proper fame on say America’s Got Talent, the number one TV show in America, autographs were kind of going out of fashion. Then it was all selfies, but it’s the same thing.
And it was- yes, I loved the idea of fame and I loved the idea of being famous, it sounded incredibly glamorous to me. And I’ve got to say, even though it’s got its pitfalls, the lack of anonymity, all that kind of stuff, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. You just have to have a thick skin. And if you’re remotely sensitive about how you’re perceived or about criticism or any of those things, it’s not going to be for you.
I see a lot of people who become famous who just cannot handle it. Whereas I handle it I think quite well, because I just take a view that most of it is just noise, very little of it matters. I think it probably helps I’ve had a brother who has been a serving member of the British Army for thirty-seven years, just recently retired. You know, if you’ve got a brother who’s in a war zone in Iraq or Afghanistan-
Andy Coulson: [0:11:02] You’ve got perspective.
Piers Morgan: [0:11:04] He doesn’t really want to hear from me whining about my difficult experience with Vanilla Ice or Milli Vanilli. It’s like, whatever, you know? So there’s a real perspective there right at your doorstep, so I think that helped.
But also I come from a family where it wouldn’t be tolerated to be too up yourself about this kind of world, because it’s not that significant. It can be, you can have significant moments, but generally speaking it’s not that important.
I present shows which report on important things and I debate important issues, but I’m not the catalyst for it, I’m not the one actually doing the important stuff.
Andy Coulson: [0:11:42] Piers, your biological father died when you were a baby.
Piers Morgan: [0:11:46] Yes, I was actually born Piers Stefan O’Meara, which was the name of my biological father who was an Irish dentist. He died when I was one, very sadly, and then my mum remarried a Welshman, Glyn Pughe-Morgan, who you know very well.
Andy Coulson: [0:12:00] Yes indeed.
Piers Morgan: [0:12:02] So that’s where that name came from. So yes, that was- it was not an easy time for my mum really, and the family. Me, I was too young to really remember it, but obviously a traumatic time for the family definitely.
Andy Coulson: [0:12:15] Your amazing mum, Gay, later married Glynne as you say, your dad. You went to prep school in Sussex where your full name sat pretty comfortably I would have thought, but less so when you had to move to that comp.
You’ve touched on it already, but is that- never mind the resilience, but the kind of determination and the sort of single-mindedness, do you trace it back to that as well as Mum, Dad? As well as also your grandmother who I was lucky enough to meet, Margot, an incredible force of nature.
Piers Morgan: [0:12:50] Yes, strong people. All strong people. And you know, the women in our family in particular, my grandmother, my mum, my sister, there’s a strong line there of strong women. And I think that definitely helped shape the kind of person I am.
But also an atmosphere of unconditional love, which I think- you’ve interviewed a lot of people for your podcast and there’s lots of people- I think even if you have one parent that gives you unconditional love it’s enough, I’ve always been lucky enough to have two, and I think that’s an incredibly empowering thing.
I think what the comprehensive gave me was I think if you go from a prep school to a comprehensive you either end up with a chip on both shoulders or your end up with a very nicely rounded pair of shoulders where you can, you know, literally as I’ve done, meet Queens and Kings and then meet the local farmer or the local carpenter and feel exactly the same with both of them.
And I do. And I think also growing up in a country pub. You know. Country pubs in villages, in East Sussex in particular, are very egalitarian places. You’d have the Lord of the Manor next to the local blacksmith, whatever it may be, and I think that that again, it’s a kind of classless environment, a pub. And so I grew up feeling sort of classless. People may laugh at that, at the double-edged version of that phrase, but what I mean by that is I didn’t ever feel that I was particularly privileged or underprivileged. We never had a lot of money but we never had no money. We always had enough to, I think, have a really enjoyable upbringing. I had no complaints, I never felt we were short of anything, we had a great life.
When I look back on it and compare it to my kids’ lives, you know, flying around the world to hotspots, LA or the Caribbean, whatever, we never did any of that. I don’t think I flew until I was 17. So a very different life, but certainly not one that I ever look back on with anything other than it was fantastic, growing up in a village.
And those mates I made at my comprehensive, you’ve met a lot of them and they’ve been friends now for forty-five, fifty years in some cases. They have to stay my friends, they know too much obviously, a bit like you. But they’ve always been a very grounding thing. I always thing that you can see alarm bells with public figures when they go through a crisis of the kind that you talk about a lot on this podcast, but they don’t have any grounding place to go to, to run to.
I would always just get in a car, whatever the mayhem was that was erupting on the front pages of papers about me, scandal or whatever it was. I always knew if I got in the car and drove to my village and went to the local pub, all the lads would be in there on a Friday or Saturday night and they wouldn’t give a stuff. They would just give me a slow handclap, “Well done, you’ve done it again, get the beers in.” Nobody cared.
They didn’t care, good or bad. I could have had a huge scoop, everyone talking about me, same reaction. I could have a terrible time, lose a job, same reaction. And it’s that equanimity of reaction from people who don’t- they’re not friends of yours for that reason. You know, my village mates aren’t mates of mine because of anything I’ve done career-wise, they’re mates of mine from when we were 13 playing cricket up against a tree. Or you know, getting into old phone boxes with 2p pieces and calling random teachers at our school. You know, stuff like that. It’s that that made us friends.
Andy Coulson: [0:16:16] And it was two-way, right? I mean, you’re being very generous quite rightly, I’ve met a lot of them, you’ve got an unbelievable network of mates down there, but it was two-way as well because loyalty is a key value of yours. I know that from our friendship, and I know it as well from the relationships that you had down there.
There’s also another element, isn’t there? I’m not sure I have ever seen from you, and interestingly from that community down in Sussex including your family, a second of self-pity from anyone.
Piers Morgan: [0:16:53] No.
Andy Coulson: [0:16:54] Total absence of, “Woe is me.”
Piers Morgan: [0:16:57] My favourite poem is DH Lawrence, it’s called Self-Pity, I think. And it’s like, A wild thing will never feel sorry for itself. A bird will die frozen to a bough without feeling sorry for itself. And it’s so true. Humans have a unique ability to wallow in self-pity.
I always think it’s a completely wasted thing, self-pity, because you’ll find quite quickly very few people care. And that kind of energy you’re expending on feeling sorry for yourself or wallowing in whatever it may be, can be expended in a much more positive way.
And I’m a firm protagonist for resilience and mental strength. And I don’t just mean fake positivity, I don’t just mean, “Get over it and-” I know people think I’m about that, I’m not really. It’s more about the old Rocky Balboa quote when he gives a speech to his son in the sixth movie, and he finally has enough of this spoilt brat son and he says, “Listen. Life’s a tough place. It will beat you down if you let it. And life’s not about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit, get back up, and keep moving forward.”
And that has always resonated with me. My sons will tell you I come out with it ad nauseum. I’ll send them the gif, you know. But I do think it’s really important to understand that life is not easy.
So one of my big bugbears is how easy schools have got, and how cosseted they are around the kids, and over-protective. You can chart it back to when they- participation prizes, when that scourge came from America where you could come last in a race on school sports day and get a prize. From that moment you can chart the downfall of this country. And I’m here to save it. Because you shouldn’t be getting a prize for coming last in a school race.
Andy Coulson: [0:18:43] Don’t overstate it, Piers, don’t overstate it.
Piers Morgan: [0:18:45] No, but I do think that mindset is so ruinous to a great country like ours.
Andy Coulson: [0:18:50] I’m with you, yes. I want to get into that in a bit more detail, but before we do I want people to understand the resilience bit.
So again, from the book, it reminded me of the whole Viglen City Slicker. This was before, you know, in a way actually I think, you’ll tell me if I’m wrong about this, in a way probably more significant than the actual exit from The Mirror because it was definitely career-threatening.
Piers Morgan: [0:19:14] No question, yes.
Andy Coulson: [0:19:14] Long-running, and the consequences of it, had it gone wrong, pretty significant to put it mildly.
Piers Morgan: [0:19:21] Very much so, yes.
Andy Coulson: [0:19:23] When you look back on that time now, being investigated by the DTI, a pretty formal process, as well as this kind of very-
Piers Morgan: [0:19:35] A pretty unpleasant experience.
Andy Coulson: [0:19:36] Very public process as well, tremendous amount of criticism. There’s a piece in the book, a diary entry where you are- I think it’s at its peak. You go to the Press Awards, you completely lose it, you fall into the bottle of whatever and you try to start a fight with the guys from The Sun. It’s a proper mess, and you admit to yourself the following morning, “I’ve lost it. I’ve lost a stone in weight, I’m falling into the bottle every night.” As close to a sort of break-down, for you?
Piers Morgan: [0:20:07] Not a breakdown, but I’d certainly- it was the first time I’d realised what it’s like to not be the hunter, which you are as a reporter, journalist, editor, but to be hunted. And to have the whole British press coming after you on an ongoing moving story, it was a very unnerving experience. So I always say to people who have been through this, “I know what the feeling is like,” and particularly now I’ve been, for want of a better phrase, a sort of well-known public figure for a number of years, you get used to it. It’s always difficult, it’s not a pleasant experience.
And the key lesson I took away from it was, I didn’t mind being judged, however harshly, on facts. I really didn’t like it when it was, you know, some columnist firing off at you over a story you knew wasn’t true. And people will say, “Well, that’s bloody ironic coming from you mate,” but I would say that the one lesson I’ve always tried to convey now to journalists since my days in Fleet Street is, facts are absolutely sacred.
With a fact, even if the subject of the fact doesn’t like it, there’s a truth at the bottom of it. And we live now in this weird sort of post-truth era, they call it, where people talk about, “My truth,” as if somehow they’ve got their own version. There’s no my truth or your truth, there’s just the truth. Facts.
When I look back on my newspaper career, the things I regret most are actually things that we just got wrong. There’s no justification for getting things wrong. And the irritation that well-known friends of mine have had over the years with stories, I’ve got not much sympathy for the ones who sold their wedding to a magazine for a million pounds and were then caught having an affair. To me that’s just- you’re playing that game, you’re commercialising your privacy and that’s- you know, you’re reaping the benefit and the downside.
But I did have a lot of sympathy if they’d been really harshly criticised and attacked over something that wasn’t true. And to me that’s why- who are the journalists I most admire? They’re actually people like- there are two or three sports journalists, football journalists, who are always right. And they don’t post all the time, they don’t write endless stories, but when they post something you know that it’s true. God, there’s a power in that.
And again, I know there will be people watching and going, “Finally, he gets the message.” Okay, but it’s not finally, I worked this out when I was actually an editor, that you can get away with a lot of things in terms of justifying stuff, where there’s a question of taste or privacy and whether it’s justified, or where there’s a public interest.
All those things are arguable points and we used to argue about them all the time. You can’t ever justify an untruth or an inaccuracy. I don’t know how you feel about that, but I just felt that it was- that was the inexcusable thing.
Piers Morgan: [0:22:57] And tone of voice as well? When you look back on the ‘90s, I know I do, some of the headlines that I was responsible for. It wasn’t just the necessarily content, it was also the tone of voice as well wasn’t it? We were pretty, you know, it was pretty high octane stuff in terms of the jobs that we were doing, but that is not necessarily an excuse for the tone of voice that we would sometimes take, the kind of headlines that we would run about people.
There’s a moment in the book where you get a letter from the mother of a reasonably famous guy who’d died, you’d run a story about him, he’d committed suicide. And the headline was around he killed himself because he was too fat, something along those lines, right? You wouldn’t run that now, no one would run that now.
Piers Morgan: [0:23:45] No, no.
Andy Coulson: [0:23:46] But isn’t- I mean, how do you sort of look back on that era now? Because we did get a lot wrong, right?
Piers Morgan: [0:23:51] Well I remember one example I’ll give you. I remember being asked when I was a young showbiz reporter in the, whenever it was, late ‘80s, very early ‘90s maybe, when I was told to write a piece about the first gay kiss on EastEnders. It was a huge story at the time. It had never been seen on British mainstream television. And the language that we used around gay people then was really- you look at it now and you wince. And I’ve been very open about that, unfortunately that was just the way newspapers at the time wrote about gay people, and it was incredibly insensitive and offensive.
Fortunately we’ve moved on massively from those days, but you look back and you do- but I think you look back at any generation and wince, probably. And one of my problems I think, was about taking morality or language or whatever it may be from a previous generation, or even further back, and trying to apply today’s views and morality and ethical views and so on to that period. I don’t think you can ever do that. Things evolve naturally, usually for the better, and it’s better that you leave the evolution in process.
I don’t agree for example with censoring books in the way that we’re doing to remove offence for people now.
Andy Coulson: [0:25:01] Yes. How else do you learn?
Piers Morgan: [0:25:03] How else do you learn? And also it’s interesting to look back at some books that have maybe racist comments in there which were perfectly normal sixty, seventy years ago but are now completely unacceptable. That to me shows a successful journey from inappropriate, bad language, offensive language, racist language, homophobic language, whatever it may be, to a better place. And we shouldn’t be afraid of that.
Andy Coulson: [0:25:28] Let’s very quickly, the end of the newspaper editing career at The Mirror. Dramatic again, very public, but it doesn’t come across in the book because that’s essentially where the book ends. And the book, as I say, then becomes the sort of platform for what becomes a very successful TV career.
But when you think back to the exit, did you at any point think you yourself, “I might be-” I know you didn’t think “I’m done,” but did you ever think, “I might be. This might not work”?
Piers Morgan: [0:26:04] Not really. Interestingly I’d written 12,000 words of The Insider Diaries by then, before I got fired from The Mirror. And I knew I couldn’t publish the book as long as I was still Editor of the paper, it just wouldn’t be compatible.
Andy Coulson: [0:26:18] So the plan was always-
Piers Morgan: [0:26:19] I don’t think it was a plan, I just had done this and I knew how readable it was, and my literary agent who you know, Eugenie, was sort of like, she was like, “God, this is so good. This is so good.” I was, “I know, but I can’t do it until I’m out of the editor’s chair, and you know, I’m not anticipating doing that for a while.” I remember ringing her on the way back to my flat after being fired. I rang her and said, “Good news, we can do the book.”
Andy Coulson: [0:26:43] So you don’t- stop there for a second. Because if that’s not a demonstrating of opportunity in crisis, you’re saying literally as you are- and you were marched out, right? Pretty dramatic moment in your working life, where most people would be head in hands, you’re not-
Piers Morgan: [0:26:57] Physically taken into the street.
Andy Coulson: [0:26:59] You’re not head in hands, you’re head on phone ringing a book agent to say, “Right, we’re on.”
Piers Morgan: [0:27:05] Yes, but I also had three other calls in my car as I drove back to my- I was literally thrown into the street without even my jacket and phone. I had to call my PA and get her to bring them down to Canary Wharf to the outside bit. I got in my car and I was driving, and I was feeling, you know, it’s discombobulating obviously. You’ve been there, it’s like a weird thing.
You know that this bomb is about to go off and you’re suddenly going to get deluged. And the moment it did, I had three calls on the bounce. I’ll never forget it, it was hilarious.
Ian Botham, Sir Ian, Lord Botham now, ringing me to say- laughing, which was great because it just cut all the ice. Laughing and saying, “You’ve done it now, haven’t you? Look mate, you’ll probably want to get away, I’ve been in this position.” He said, “I’ve got a nice place in Spain,” I think it was, “Why don’t you come out and we’ll just play some golf and get drunk?” It was so nice of him.
Then Marco Pierre White rang me, the chef, and he said, “Why don’t you come and have lunch tomorrow?” which I did end up doing, “And we’ll just drink sassicaia all afternoon and you can turn the phone off for the first time in ten years.” Exactly what I did. Best lunch I’ve had in years.
And the third one was Mohamed Al-Fayed ringing from Harrod’s to say he had a vacancy for a new doorman.
So by the time I thought it, I just remember thinking, “I’m going to be fine.” I then rang my agent, I said, “We should do the book,” and we literally invited in a bunch of publishers in the next few weeks to my treasure trove of everything I’d kept, and they read the 12,000 words, and off the back of the money I got for that book, that was the next phase of my career.
But you remember, I was very young. I’d been 28 when I was made Editor of The News of the World. I was 38 when I was fired from The Mirror. So I was actually the youngest editor ever fired, which was quite an achievement, having been one of the youngest ever to get a job.
So I knew I had time on my side, I had age on my side, and I’ve always- I think this is again from my family, they all went through quite a few difficult things, like all families. And the resilience bit has always been so strong in the family. Just dust yourself down and get on with it.
There’s no point feeling sorry for yourself. It’s the one key lesson I’d give to anyone watching this. You’re going to go through stuff in life good and bad, right? Don’t get over-excited by the good stuff, although always celebrate it, always celebrate the good times because you know the bad stuff is coming, and you just have to deal with that. And whether it’s losing a job, losing a loved one, whatever it may be, this stuff is coming. And you’d better be ready. And how you deal with it will actually define the quality of your life. I really believe that. And you’ve got to-
I think sulking is a wasted emotion, I think self-pity is a wasted emotion. All those things I’m not really prone to, because I think there’s a better way to expend your energy than that.
Andy Coulson: [0:29:57] You mentioned grief, so let’s talk about that for a second. It’s a subject that we talk about a lot on the pod.
Piers, I remember your- you’ve described that network of friends down in Sussex, one of those people was Will, your friend.
Piers Morgan: [0:30:09] Yes, Will Page.
Andy Coulson: [0:30:13] A great guy, I met him a few times, he was a proper highflier in the Foreign Office I think, who died in a cycling accident, still in his twenties. I remember you were utterly devastated. But I also remember not long after you saying to me that his death sort of reinforced to you that life is incredibly fragile and that we’re not here long. That it made you feel even more sort of impatient to get on with it, if you like.
Now, you’re a young man having that kind of conclusion over what was a very traumatic moment. Does it sit in your mind? Obviously losing Will you remember, and it seems like a moment in your life- But what it caused you to think about-
Piers Morgan: [0:31:01] Will was a great character. Unbelievably positive guy, super fit, and he died in this accident and it was a terrible shock to all of us. It was the first proper friend we’d lost as a group, and it was awful. But I’ve always kept a picture of him around my desk, I always have a little look at him and see his cheeky grin, and I genuinely often have a little word, especially in times of difficulty. Because Will would always be great at just laughing stuff off, he was one of those guys.
And we had another friend, we had a mutual friend Chris who got killed in another accident, and that was awful, again. But it taught you the reality of life, which is it can be extremely fragile, it can be taken in a second.
I remember another guy called Matthew Harding who was the owner of Chelsea Football Club for a while. I’d had a weird moment when I was in my late teens of working at the Lloyds Insurance room on an underwriting syndicate, standing in for someone who had been sick, for nine months. I found it very boring, couldn’t wait to leave, but it was good money and it was an interesting experience. My underwriter’s best mate was Matthew Harding who was a top broker at the time.
So I got to know him, and then when I became an editor he contacted me and we used to meet up for lunch occasionally. And they would be riotous lunches, this guy was completely wild.
Andy Coulson: [0:32:25] A proper character.
Piers Morgan: [0:32:26] And he’d have, you know, five gin and tonics, three bottles of wine, and he still wouldn’t let you go. But he’d always end every lunch by saying, “Piersy, Piersy,” he said, “Remember. Live every day like it’s your last, because one day you’ll be right.” And that really struck with me. It’s actually in my Twitter bio thing. It’s from Matthew.
And the one thing I learned from Wills death, and Chris’s death, and then future friends of mine or family who died, is that that’s so true. One day you’re going to die, so you may as well live every day doing what you really want to do. Because if you waste it, what’s the point? You may as well just end your life now, there’s no point. So if you’re going to live life, live it. Don’t die wondering. I will not die wondering. If I run out under a bus now, I will look back and think, “Fifty-eight great years.” Good, bad and ugly, but I won’t die wondering. I won’t be thinking, “God, I wish I’d done more that, this,” I won’t. And I feel very happy about that.
I want to live to 100 if I can, which may be horrifying to some of your people watching this, but I genuinely believe that you’ve got to live every day.
Andy Coulson: [0:33:32] You’ve had more recent examples of it. This week, Jerry Springer. You worked very closely with him, right?
Andy Coulson: [0:33:36] Jerry was oddly just a very good friend of mine. He came on America’s Got Talent when I did it, he was the host for two years, season 2 and 3, and we both lived at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles. We were living the life of Riley, so whenever the filming was on we’d be at the hotel together, and we’d lie by the pool together and we’d have dinner two or three times a week together, we became really good friends.
I just remember, I had an amazing moment with Jerry, it was- we’d just- first dinner we had just privately, the two of us, he told me, “My show,” he said, The Springer Show, it was the biggest show on TV, around the world at the time, and he said, “It’s a terrible show but I love it. And I love the people that come on. And there’s a lot of snobbery about it,” which I think was completely true. And he said, “You’d be amazed who watches it. Mohamed Ali watches it religiously.” I went, “Mohamed Ali does?” He said, “Yes, he loves the fighting.” I went, “Really?” He said, “Yes, he loves it. Loves it.”
I thought, “I just don’t believe a word of this.” We walked off, down through Beverly Hills from Mr Chow’s to the Beverly Wilshire, and I swear to you this is true. I wrote about it in the book. A stretch limousine pulls up at the valet parking as we’re walking down through the valet parking to the back wing to our rooms. So there was a split second of like maybe ten seconds when we could have crossed. And out gets Mohamed Ali and his wife. And Mohamed is quite towards the end of his life, he’s quite stooped, but his eyes are ablaze with fire. And his wife said, “Mohamed, it’s Jerry Springer. Jerry, he’s still watching the show.”
I roared with laughter, we had- I met the great man thanks to Jerry, and he was, “I love it Jerry, I love it,” all this sort of thing. We walked up and I went, “Jerry, I will never disbelieve a word you say again.” And we laughed, but he became a really good friend then.
To the extent that my middle boy was at school doing a Sound of Music production, he was only 8 or 9. Amanda Holden had agreed to come and host the production because she loved all the musicals stuff. Michael Grade the media mogul, his son was at the school so he’d agreed to dress up along with me as a singing nun. And we had a vacancy for a priest. Amanda was doing Richard and Judy I think, and Jerry happened to be there. So she put him on the phone and I went, “Jerry, do you fancy being a priest tonight on a-” and he went, “Absolutely.”
And so there’s a picture of all of us on stage at this kids’ production, Michael Grade and me as nuns, Amanda, God knows what she was dressed like, and Jerry Springer as a- he’s obviously Jewish, he said, “Don’t worry, I’ll clear it with my Rabbi.” And another time he came down to my village and played in my- well he didn’t play really, he turned up at my cricket match, the annual thing I do against the village, and just hung out with the locals for a few hours. And they were all really sad yesterday because they all remember what a down to earth, decent bloke he was.
And Jerry had had an amazing, you know, in a way reminded me a bit of my life because he’d had- he’d been a news anchor for ten years, he’d been a politician for a year and it ended in scandal, then he’d stumbled into this show which became a huge hit, which he knew was pretty trashy TV but it was hugely popular and incredibly lucrative. And he was a guy who loved opinions, ferociously argumentative about politics in particular, we had some right set-tos about Trump when he got elected.
But ultimately just a really good, solid guy.
Andy Coulson: [0:36:49] Didn’t die wondering.
Piers Morgan: [0:36:50] And I interviewed him only a month ago. He came on Piers Morgan Uncensored and he was just the same old Jerry. Actually it was him and Jean Simmons from Kiss and me in a three-way conversation about whether you’re too old to be President at 80. And it was incredibly sad to hear he’d died, because I didn’t know he’d been ill. When I heard that I thought, “Yes, that’s-” you know, my parents always said, “As you get older the worst thing is all the people you know start to die. It’s the hardest thing to deal with.”
Andy Coulson: [0:37:20] So grief, let’s move the conversation more broadly into mental health and anxiety. You’ve got very strong views, we’ve talked about this previously.
Piers Morgan: [0:37:34] There’s been an almost deliberate attempt to brand everything a mental illness of some sort, almost making everybody feel like there’s something wrong with them, and I think that’s a catastrophically bad strategy by a society like ours to take. And we seem to have forgotten the merits of mental strength and mental resilience, and for want of a better phrase, because I know it enrages everybody, manning up sometimes. Or womaning up, whatever you want to call it.
Just rolling your sleeves up and cracking on has now become something which is rarely talked about because people think, “My God, you can’t possibly say that.” You must celebrate being weak, you must celebrate having things wrong with you. You must wallow in it, you must make money out of it as many people are doing. There’s a whole industry around mental health now. And I see people whose motives I’m afraid I’m extremely cynical about, who seem to have everything wrong with them and then do book after book after book and make tonnes of money out of talking about all their terrible things.
I’m like, where’s the alternative to this? Where do young people who are gripped with anxiety, a lot of it driven by social media and the need for validation and the constant comparative nature of social media, and all the judgemental stuff which can be read by lots of people, where are the people saying to these people, “Okay, let’s get a grip”? Where’s the Rocky speech to the son? Why have we stopped talking like that to young people? Who’s in schools telling them this?
We tell them if they come last they get a prize. We tell them that, you know, if you fail your driving test for the eighth time it’s empowering, you should be proud of yourself.
Andy Coulson: [0:39:08] I’m with you, and I’m with-
Piers Morgan: [0:39:10] And I’m like, “Hang on, why? Why don’t you just say no?” When my kids came last at something I was like, “Well you’re obviously no good at that. So either train harder and be better at it, or accept that you’re not at that and do something else. Find something you’re good at.”
Andy Coulson: [0:39:24] I’m with you on this, but it’s not as black and white though, is it?
Piers Morgan: [0:39:28] No no, it’s nuanced.
Andy Coulson: [0:39:29] Because there is a fairly large category that sits in the middle, and because of the change in conversation around mental illness and mental health, you know, we are actually shining a bit of a light on some conditions and some issues that-
Piers Morgan: [0:39:45] But is that conversation-
Andy Coulson: [0:39:48] Let me finish, that are genuine, and that do deserve a different kind of approach, and do deserve a kind of wider consideration. It’s not just, you’re mentally ill or- genuinely mentally ill or get on with it. Right? There is a large area in the middle.
Piers Morgan: [0:40:07] But I have a real problem-
Andy Coulson: [0:40:09] So my question is, how do you manage the area in the middle, and who decides that?
Piers Morgan: [0:40:14] Well, I have a real problem with the conversation that you talk about. I think that the conversation has been utterly relentless, it’s all anyone talks about, and I see absolutely zero evidence of it working. All I see is the amount of anxiety, depression-
Andy Coulson: [0:40:27] Is that right, really? I think there are a lot of people, aren’t there? In the big picture I’m totally with you, right-
Piers Morgan: [0:40:32] This is not about, by the way, not wanting people to speak up or talk. I’ve always been in favour of that, I think there’s no problem with that at all. I encourage people- I do it with my kids. I’m not talking about that. But I’m talking about the framing of this whole debate being constantly negative. Let’s find a load of things wrong with you and let you wallow in that. I don’t think that helps.
And I think that we’ve become almost a country in permanent therapy, if you like, almost like the country’s in therapy, and I don’t think that works. I don’t think it’s the British way. I think we’ve always been a tough, roll your sleeves up kind of mentality as a country, and I genuinely think we’ve gone soft and weak.
And when I talk about this I’m astonished by the reaction I get. A lot of people agree with me, they’re just worried about saying it because if you say this on Twitter for example you get your head chewed off, right? I get accused of being disgustingly insensitive and belittling people with mental illness.
No I’m not, I’m clearly saying there are people who are mentally ill who urgently need treatment. I’m not talking about people with clinical depression, which is a serious, serious thing I’ve seen affect people I know. I’m not talking about genuine things like this.
I’m talking about day-to-day life issues which seem to be provoking an extraordinary amount of anxiety, particularly amongst younger people, and I want to know why, and what can we do to help them? Because I want them to come out of school better prepared for life than they’re currently doing. And I don’t think that’s an unreasonable position to take, or an unreasonable argument. And to those who say, you know, “You’re being heartless,” no, I care. I care about what I’m seeing. I’m seeing it with my own eyes all the time.
And my problem is, the number of famous people who seem to think that every interview they now give has got to be wallowing in their own terrible mental health problems or whatever it may be, I’m like, “Hang on a second, why don’t you flip it? Why don’t you be a better role model?” Rather than saying, “I’ve got to talk about all this, because everybody else out there will relate to me,” why don’t talk more positively? Why don’t you appreciate all the stuff you’ve got, for starters? All of these people are multi-millionaires living extraordinarily privileged lives, why don’t they talk in a more positive way? Because I do think this whole debate has got- is going down completely the wrong-
Andy Coulson: [0:42:44] You’re talking about- listen, as I say, I’m with you, right? But I’m talking about a rebalancing. My point is that it’s- there are also difficulties and struggles that people have that we now talk about in a way that we didn’t before, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Piers Morgan: [0:43:00] I’ve got no problem with more open chat.
Andy Coulson: [0:43:02] Another interesting point here for me is that you know, this is your view. You’ve got a platform, you can talk about this on your show and on your other, very influential channels. How else do we sort of change the debate, big picture on this? Because we sure as hell aren’t getting it from politicians, right?
Piers Morgan: [0:43:19] No.
Andy Coulson: [0:43:19] And the lack of kind of, even if we boiled it down to sort of common sense attitudes to these issues that suddenly fly out of nowhere, quite often on the front page of The Guardian, that suddenly we’re all supposed to care about and are affecting us, are impacting us as a society.
So from a political point of view you’ve met a lot of politicians. You’ve interviewed a lot of politicians, you’ve been around politics and seen behind the curtain. What do we do to try and change this debate, then?
Piers Morgan: [0:43:48] Well, they need to grow a pair and they need to show more moral courage and have a moral compass. It’s interesting, Harry Belafonte, the singer, Day-O Day-O, he died-
Andy Coulson: [0:43:57] We’ve gone from Rocky to Harry Belafonte.
Piers Morgan: [0:44:00] Yes, Harry Belafonte, but he was a really interesting smart guy, I interviewed him at CNN. And I found the interview when he died, aged 96, such an impressive guy. And he talked about meeting Martin Luther King, and he said, you know, “I’ve met Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy before he got assassinated,” and he said, “Those were the last two leaders I saw really, that I knew-” he was talking about America primarily, because obviously there was Mandela and others outside of America, but in America, who in his opinion had the moral compass and the moral courage and conviction to actually be forces for good.
And you wonder, where are those people anymore? And I don’t think they’re there. You know, I look at the last fifty years, who have genuinely been great world leaders, who have shown real moral courage?
Andy Coulson: [0:44:47] Does the environment allow for moral courage? Because moral courage, we’ve had discussions, right? It’s the old cliché I know, but if you put Churchill, who I know we’re both great admirers of, into the modern context, he wouldn’t have lasted five minutes. Because-
Piers Morgan: [0:45:02] Well he might, because he might have hit back. I mean, that’s the talk about courage. He might have taken the flack and then come on the attack. And I think that’s really important in this kind of woke-ravaged world we now exist in, is if the mob comes to you you’ve got to show some balls and stand up to it. You have to. Otherwise everyone gets taken down by this cancel culture.
Because cancel culture is really a form of puritanical fascism. It’s, “You will do it our way or we will destroy you,” and it needs corporate life to stand up more than it’s been doing. But it needs individuals to grow a pair too, and just go, “You know what?” And by the way, even by saying, “Grow a pair,” there will be the woke brigade on Twitter now when they watch this demanding I get cancelled. I couldn’t care less. Grow a pair.
And it’s- but you’ve got to do that. You’ve got to stand up to this nonsense, because it is nonsense, and if we don’t, where does it take us? If everything that you say or do makes you- renders you capable of being cancelled, what are we? We’re not a democracy.
Andy Coulson: [0:45:58] So give me an example where you’ve seen someone kind of have to fall on their sword, which happens almost on an hourly basis at the moment in public life, what should have happened instead? What-?
Piers Morgan: [0:46:12] Well, you’re looking at one. I was doing a job I loved, Good Morning Britain, where you just smash ratings records week in week out for months, we’re on fire really as a show. I had my strong positions, my co-host Susanna Reid had hers, we argued about them, it was a perfect mix. That’s why I was brought in to do the job. And then for the crime of disbelieving Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, but mainly her over the lies they were spewing to Oprah Winfrey, I was put in an impossible position of either apologising for disbelieving her, when I saw no evidence that it was true, or I had to leave.
So I was effectively engineered- they knew I wouldn’t apologise, so I was engineered out of a job I loved, that was really doing well. That’s the personification of cancel culture, particularly when I then discovered after I’d gone that Meghan Markle had written to my female boss at ITV demanding she fired me the night before I got fired. Well, not fired but engineered out. Given a fait accompli they knew I wouldn’t accept.
That is cancel culture. That is somebody like Meghan Markle who thinks her truth is more important than the truth. Spewing a lot of unverifiable, to this day unverified, wild allegations against the royal family of racism and callousness about suicidal thoughts and all these things, none of which have ever been substantiated. That she was able to spew this on global television, causing enormous damage to the royal family and the monarchy, and that for questioning this and saying I didn’t believe it, in a democracy, on a job that I was specifically hired to express my honestly-held opinions, the idea that that rendered me cancellable simply because a Twitter mob fired up and Meghan Markle writes to my boss demanding I get fired, to me was just extraordinary.
And then five months later, for Ofcom the regulator to find in my favour and reject all the complaints because they believe in free speech, when I was working for a media company who should have known what free speech means. So I found that a very dispiriting example of what I’m talking about.
But worse was what happened to Sharon Osbourne, if you remember, who was doing a show called The Talk in America, who only said on Twitter, “Piers is entitled to his opinion.” She didn’t say she agreed with me. And for that she got accused of supporting someone who had said racist things.
Andy Coulson: [0:48:26] And fired, right?
Piers Morgan: [0:48:27] And because she then blew up in anger, “What’s he said that’s racist?” obviously I’d said nothing racist. For that, because her black co-host took her on and accused her of supporting someone who had said racist things, but then admitted I hadn’t said anything racist, Sharon lost her job, got fired. Didn’t even express an opinion. I mean, it was unbelievable.
So when people say cancel culture doesn’t exist, that is cancel culture. That’s how it works.
Andy Coulson: [0:48:54] Okay, look. You’ve lived it then, right? So my question really is, what’s- and you know, you’ve taken this on, this is your mission.
Piers Morgan: [0:49:02] Yes, it’s a very important mission.
Andy Coulson: [0:49:05] It’s a very important mission. It’s a theme of the show Piers Morgan Uncensored, it’s your daily theme on Twitter and on Instagram and elsewhere, but what- how do we fix it, then? How do we even begin to move this in a meaningful way if you’ve got, as you’ve just described, TV establishment in terms of ITV if you like, you’ve got all the political piece, you can’t find an answer. Well maybe you know, you feel differently, maybe something will appear politically, that common sense kind of agenda somehow will be got hold of and put to work. How else do you do it?
Piers Morgan: [0:49:41] I’ll give you the answer. I thought when I interviewed Rishi Sunak at Number 10 shortly after he became Prime Minister, and I just asked him the most dangerous question in the world, “What is a woman?” and he just immediately said, “An adult human female.”
Andy Coulson: [0:49:54] Yes.
Piers Morgan: [0:49:55] That is the start of the fight back. And I think that what’s happening for example with trans athletes in sport, with the world sporting bodies led by Sebastian Coe and others saying, “Alright, we can now see allowing former biological-” well, they’re not former, they’re biological males who identify as women, “To compete against biological females is obviously unfair. We’re not going to allow it to happen.” That’s how you resolve this.
Then you have a debate about fairness and equality for trans people. How does that work? How do you get them fairness and equality without impinging or diminishing on women’s rights, for example, of safety, or equality in sport and so on?
So these are all complicated debates, but you’ve got to start from a premise that you can’t deny facts. That you can’t, in the trans debate, just simply ignore biological sex and say it doesn’t exist. It’s a farce. It’s what it comes back to, my truth. There’s no such thing as my truth. I don’t care how many six-foot four-inch former male swimmers put their hands up and say, “I’m now a woman and I demand to swim against females” we have, it’s never going to change my mind that this is completely unfair.
And by the way, a vast majority of the public agree with me. I always say to people when they say, “God, you’ve got such controversial opinions,” I say, “Well, like what? Like what, out of interest? Which of my opinions do you find that controversial?” And when I do podcasts like this I always get normally a very good response, because people think, “Oh, I didn’t know you were like that,” because they just see a TikTok clip, or this, or whatever.
You know, I’m not right wing for example, never have been. I edited The Daily Mirror, you know? I think I’m a voice of common sense, I think the woke cancel culture is incredibly dangerous. I think it’s a form of fascism without the extreme violence, but the mentality is violent, and the way they go after people is a form of violence. And I think we’ve got to stand up to it as a society, and go back to facts are sacred, debate is to be accepted and encouraged, and at the end of it we can go and have a drink together.
My best mates, we argue about everything all the time. It would never cross our mind to fall out with each other or want to cancel the other one for having a different view. What happened to that mentality? It’s nuts. You know, you and I have had big debates, big arguments, right? The idea of sort of, “Never speaking to you again, and by the way I’m going to ruin your life because you disagree with me about Brexit,” or Trump, or whatever it may be, Covid vaccines. To me it’s completely absurd.
But that’s why I think the job that I do is important. I do have a massive platform, I’ve got eight and half-
Andy Coulson: [0:52:32] Do you think that’s why you- you obviously do, right, this is why you’ve got more followers than The Sun, the paper that you and I grew up on has got sales. I mean it’s-
Piers Morgan: [0:52:41] Well, I have four times as many followers on Twitter than I had selling copies of The Daily Mirror in 2004 when I left.
Andy Coulson: [0:52:49] So you think that the reason that that audience is there, and you work pretty hard at it, right? As you said yourself, if you’re not trending in the morning you’re not happy. So you’re operationally on it, if I can put it that way. But you think the reason you’ve got those numbers is because of this common sense theme.
Piers Morgan: [0:53:04] When I got levered out of Good Morning Britain, my book which had just come out, Wake Up, which was a clarion call from a liberal for liberals to behave like liberals again, went to number one in the book charts within four days. And I was being stopped all over the place by people who completely agreed with me. Not necessarily agreed with me about Meghan Markle or Prince Harry or any of those things, but agreed with my right to have my opinion. They thought that was what it meant to be British.
This is what, talking about Winston Churchill, it’s what the Second World War was fought over. Freedom. Including the bedrock of a democracy in freedom is freedom of speech and expression. When we lose that as a country-
Andy Coulson: [0:53:45] Churchill on Twitter would have been an interesting thing, actually.
Piers Morgan: [0:53:47] I think he’d have been brilliant on Twitter.
Andy Coulson: [0:53:49] The one-liners would have been-
Piers Morgan: [0:53:51] He’d have been a more erudite version of Trump, you know? But he wouldn’t have just taken this. I mean, the kind of revisionist view of Churchill that he was some evil monster is such bullshit. This was the greatest figure of the last two hundred years.
Andy Coulson: [0:54:07] And it is a nonsense to take people out of the past and put them in the modern context, it’s an absurd idea.
Let’s talk a little bit more about social media though, because you just talked about the power that it affords in trying to get a bit of course correction on this stuff, but isn’t it also- it’s also contributing to it, right? I mean, it’s-
Piers Morgan: [0:54:23] Of course, I feel the noise.
Andy Coulson: [0:54:25] So how do you work that out?
Piers Morgan: [0:54:27] I have to be- I’ve learned-
Andy Coulson: [0:54:28] Because it’s also contributing, just to go back to the mental health debate, it is also, which often comes up on this pod, it is definitely contributing in a negative way. Particularly with the younger generation who are addicted to-
Piers Morgan: [0:54:38] Yes, I think Instagram is the bigger problem there than Twitter, for young people. It’s the comparative nature of Instagram, it’s the constant fear of missing out, looking at other people having a great time, you know, having your own pictures judged, comments, criticism, all that stuff that we said behind people’s backs is now being said in public, right?
And I can look at a- this is the difference between me and most people on social media. I’ve got like two million followers on Instagram, probably way too many for a bloke of my age. I like it, it’s fun, it’s for showing off, Instagram for me, it’s just showing off. Twitter is for opinions, Instagram is for showing off. We all know it, I just admit it.
But I’ll post a picture of myself and there can be fifty negative comments, but if there’s one positive one I’m like, “Nailed it.” Most people-
Andy Coulson: [0:55:22] That’s your ratio is it, 50:1?
Piers Morgan: [0:55:24] No, I’m just saying- if I’ve been in the news for something and it’s controversial, a lot of people come to my Instagram just to abuse me. So you put a picture up and it’s like, “You look like a-” you know, “A disgusting old gammon,” or whatever it may be. There’s a load of it, right? But I’ll pick out one saying, “Hey, looking good today Piers, the diet’s working out,” “Hey hey,” right?
But I would say 99% of people on Instagram, maybe 99.9%, they will be the opposite. They can read fifty great comments about themselves, looking great or sounding great or whatever it may be, and if there’s one negative one it ruins their day. That’s the difference between me and most people on social media. And I think I’m blessed with a rhino hide, obviously I’m pretty self-confident and always have been, and make no apology for that. But I think my way of dealing with it is a lot healthier.
Accentuate the positive. It’s not even a glass half full in my case, it can be a glass that is literally that full, but I’m going to pretend it’s that full, and fuck you, right? And it’s very empowering to be like that, it makes you feel better. I genuinely don’t care. But if I cared I couldn’t do it.
And too many people, I think that they lack my shamelessness probably, which is also part of the rhino skin. I totally accept that. They lack my healthy ego, which is extremely healthy. I always think if you don’t blow your own trumpet why should anybody else? So all that, of course.
But ultimately I can soak up the crap in a way that I don’t see many other people doing particularly well. Some people do. I was out with James Blunt the other day, the singer, drinking some fabulous wine. We were talking about it. And he has a brilliant Twitter feed where he just mocks himself relentlessly. And he’s so smart and he’s so clever, he was a former Army captain, he gets the perspective thing. He said, “Why would I care? I’ve been-” he’s been in war zones, you know, why would he care again what some idiot is saying on Twitter?
Andy Coulson: [0:57:22] Or thinks about a song that I made millions from?
Piers Morgan: [0:57:26] Yes. And we just both think it’s funny, and a sort of toy to play with. We don’t take any of the abuse to heart or personally, but most people do.
Andy Coulson: [0:57:37] So there’s this thick skin, but as I alluded to in the introduction there’s also this unbelievable work ethic which I don’t think is understood in relation to you. Because you don’t shout and scream about it, it’s just the output right? It’s just there. But I know what goes on sort of behind that. You’re a machine. And I think if we’re going to be encouraging people towards this new approach to life, I think it would be useful for them to get a bit of a glimpse of the Piers Morgan operating system. So describe it for me. What’s the average day?
Piers Morgan: [0:58:09] I’ve always had this work ethic. It comes from my parents who ran the country pub, they worked seven days a week for years, including running a busy kitchen, busy restaurant, it was amazing when I look back at it. And reared four kids at the same time without any help. It was amazing.
So you definitely get it handed down to you, that work ethic I think. If your parents are lazy and they don’t encourage that kind of thing, you’re not going to have it in you. You’ll be lucky if you do. But I did.
So I’ve always worked hard, but you know, I normally get out of bed at like five o’clock, and I’ll go to work.
Andy Coulson: [0:58:42] You used to have to get up at four o’clock when you were doing GMB, but you’re saying to me your average start time is-
Piers Morgan: [0:58:49] Yes, this is now I have a show at eight at night.
Andy Coulson: [0:58:50] You’re out of bed at five?
Piers Morgan: [0:58:51] Yes. So I do two columns a week, one for the New York Post one for The Sun. I’ve written three this week actually, sometimes I’ll do more. I do a nightly show obviously, that involves really from the moment I get up, reading all the papers, disseminating what’s on Twitter, so that by eight or nine o’clock in the morning I know exactly what’s happening everywhere in the world. I’ve seen all the clips, I’ve seen the fun stuff, the serious stuff, I’ve seen who’s in the news, who’s not in the news. I’ve worked out roughly in my head the kind of thing we should be doing.
Andy Coulson: [0:59:16] And the filter that you are- because obviously it’s everywhere, right? And your scope of interest is pretty wide. So what are your filters, if you like? How are you-?
Piers Morgan: [0:59:27] I don’t really have one. I’m amazingly fast speed-reader, which I got from when I was a newspaper editor. So in the old days you’d sit there and you’d have two thousand stories a day come through you, and you might publish one hundred and forty every day. So you get used to it, as you know. It’s a discipline I think that newspaper editors have, and people who work in daily newspapers. You get to a) long hours and working hard, and b) you get used to disseminating vast amounts of information.
Andy Coulson: [0:59:52] And self-imposed deadlines as well? Get it done?
Piers Morgan: [0:59:55] Yes, I’m pretty disciplined.
Andy Coulson: [0:59:56] And don’t worry too much about it being-
Piers Morgan: [0:59:57] Because you know, in newspapers if you miss a deadline you miss- every minute you’re late you’re missing a thousand copies.
Andy Coulson: [1:00:03] So you kept that mentality.
Piers Morgan: [1:00:03] No question, yes. And it’s interesting, I was out with- having dinner in LA recently with Gary Lineker and Bruno Tonioli, and they both have exactly the same ethic. Gary, because when you’re footballer if you’re a minute late for training you got fined for every minute you were late. And Bruno, because he was used to theatre, and in theatre if the curtain comes up you’d better get dancing, right? So we all have that same mentality and we bring it to our daily lives. So I like to have discipline.
Andy Coulson: [1:00:27] That’s self-imposed now, right? You impose that on yourself.
Piers Morgan: [1:00:30] It’s always been in me, it’s always been in me. I’ve always worked hard. So even you know, when we worked on The Sun together, I worked very hard. And I work very hard now. I travel a lot, that can be quite gruelling. You’ve got to take care of yourself, you’ve got to be very disciplined about it. I flew- in one six-week period this time last year, just to give people some idea of what goes on, I flew from London to New York to Los Angeles to Daytona in Florida to Hawaii to Syndney Australia to London to New York to Los Angeles to Florida and back to London. That was in six weeks.
Andy Coulson: [1:01:05] Okay, so you’ve got-
Piers Morgan: [1:01:06] And then in between, I’ll make the point, in between I’m writing all the columns, I’m making eight crime documentaries in the last calendar year, and I’ve produced maybe two hundred nightly shows, and I’ve produced maybe a hundred columns, and I’ve done- I’m writing a book, and I do all the Twitter stuff myself. So-
Andy Coulson: [1:01:26] This was going to be my question, because there’s also by the way, let’s give them some credit, you also- the other thing you do is inspire loyalty in the teams that you work with.
Piers Morgan: [1:01:35] I like to, yes.
Andy Coulson: [1:01:35] You always have. The team at The Mirror, they loved you. And you know, in some of the other jobs you’ve had as well. So there’s, you know, you hire well, you’ve got good people around you. But this other layer that we’ve been touching on, this kind of constant hand on the tiller with social media is non-stop. I’ve seen it. We’ll have lunch and you’re- well have a good lunch, we’ll have a good drink and it’s a lovely afternoon, and while I’m thinking, “Right, I might have a bit of a snooze on the train,” you’re back on the Twitter. “How can I start an argument? How can I get something going here?”
Piers Morgan: [1:02:12] No, it’s more- well, first of all it’s more about information. So, my wife will tell you that if we go on holiday it’s far better than I’m allowed to keep my phone on the beach and occasionally check what’s going on, than if I leave it in the room and I basically after about half an hour start to twitch that something may be happening I’m not aware of. I’m a news junkie, have been from when I was a kid. I need to know what’s happening, and if I don’t I become an absolute wreck. And as the hours go on my mind starts to think all hell has broken loose and I’m the last person to know.
Andy Coulson: [1:02:43] Is that an addiction?
Piers Morgan: [1:02:44] Yes, no question. But it’s not a particularly unhealthy one. I’m just getting information, I’m not injecting things into myself, I’m not drinking anything, I’m just-
Andy Coulson: [1:02:53] You don’t think it does you any harm at all?
Piers Morgan: [1:02:56] I think it’s- it doesn’t affect my sleep pattern for example, I sleep fine, I just don’t sleep for that long. I’m quite happy with six hours’ good sleep. I found on Good Morning Britain you can sleep for nine hours but if it’s broken you feel terrible. But if you had four really great hours you could feel fine. Sleep quality is infinitely better than time.
Andy Coulson: [1:03:14] Another Churchillian lesson actually, he was the master of the power sleep.
Piers Morgan: [1:03:18] And Margaret Thatcher lived off three or four hours a night. So it’s really about quality of sleep. My advice to people who have got sleep problems is, only go to bed when you’re tired. Really tired. If you try and do it before, you’ll have broken sleep. But when you’re really tired you just- you’ll be out. And then I get what I call good sleep.
Andy Coulson: [1:03:35] Okay.
Piers Morgan: [1:03:36] And that’s important. To keep the energy up- you know, I had long Covid for a few months, seven months after I got it, like a year and a half ago, it was awful. Mainly because I had no taste or smell so I couldn’t drink my favourite fine wine, I couldn’t smell anything so food was all completely tasteless and pointless, and I lost my energy. So I had about 25% energy for about seven months. It was that that nearly killed me, just not- because I need high energy to function at the rate that I want to function at to get all my stuff done.
Andy Coulson: [1:04:05] It was unnatural for you.
Piers Morgan: [1:04:06] Yes, just to wake up and feel like flatlined before you even start, made everything so much harder. It made column writing twice as hard, it made decision making twice- it made all of it much harder. But it’s not like- I can, as you know because we’ve had many times ourselves, we can go as we might do today Andrew, go and have a nice long lunch together, right?
And I love to have fun, and I manage I think to get that balance right. That’s really important. All work and no play makes Jack dull lad, I think my mum used to say, right? And we always subscribed to that in my family. Party hard, work hard. And I think if you can get that balance right, you’ll have a fulfilling life.
Andy Coulson: [1:04:44] Piers, brilliant. I’m going to ask you in a second for your Crisis Comforts, so the three things that you rely on in the tough times. But before I do, I want to say thanks for coming.
Piers Morgan: [1:04:54] It’s been great.
Andy Coulson: [1:04:55] It’s been a fantastic conversation. I am biased, as evidenced by the length of our friendship, but your views and the way that you express them, long may it continue. You are almost a lone voice, but in this increasingly bonkers world I think an important one. Our lives left in the hands of those who, as we’ve touched on here cry equality whilst tearing into anyone who has the audacity to criticise them, would be a lot less fun and a lot less fair, more importantly. So more power to your elbow.
Your Crisis Comforts. Three things in some of those dark moments that we’ve discussed here, what are they?
Piers Morgan: [1:05:36] I know what they are. Because they’re always- that’s what I do.
First thing, I get in my car, I go to my village pub and I see the village boys and have a pint of Harvey’s. It’s got to be Harvey’s, from the Lewes brewery three miles away. And the village, a pint of Harvey’s makes all the troubles go away.
And then as the night will wear on I’ll always get a hankering, if times are really difficult, for a Monte Cristo No. 2 cigar. Got to be No. 2. And I will thoroughly enjoy luxuriating in a big, fat cigar. Everything feels better when you have one of those. I don’t smoke generally, I have about four or five cigars a year, but that brings me treat comfort in a time of difficulty.
And then I will watch a Rocky film. Any of them.
Andy Coulson: [1:06:14] Which is the best?
Piers Morgan: [1:06:16] Well, the best is the first one, which one the Oscar. And actually if you go and watch it today, it’s a real work of art, that film, the rest are far more commercial. But I love the Rocky Balboa story, I love his attitude, I love the, if you get knocked over get back up and keep going. And if you get punched, punch them harder. I know we can’t say that any more. I know that now if you get punched, that the world view has got to be you’ve got to then do a three-part interview in the paper about what a victim you’ve been and how awful it is and how unfair it is and how you hope the person who punched you gets arrested and put in prison for the rest of their lives, whatever it may be.
I have a different view. Which is, if you get punched in the face, punch them back. And I mean that physically and metaphorically. I used to get punched at comprehensive school, and then right to the point that two of the biggest punches, we all fell off the school bus and I got into a proper fight. Now, I’d had fights with my two brothers, as you know, big lads, for years. I could look after myself. And we had a street brawl to end street brawls. But the next day I got on the bus and the two bullies were sitting there and they just nodded at me with respect. It’s the only language bullies understand. As Mike Tyson always said, everyone has got a plan until they get punched in the face. And I had no plan until I punched back. You’ve got to punch back in life, whether it’s physically or metaphorically, and if people don’t like that, I don’t care.
Andy Coulson: [1:07:42] I asked you for the Piers Morgan operating system, I think we just got another glimpse into it. Thank you very much.
Piers, thanks for coming on, it’s been brilliant. Good to see you.
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