Also Credited As:Piers Stefan Morgan, Piers Stefan O'Meara
|Piers Stefan O'Meara on March 30, 1965 in Newick, East Sussex, GB|
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Piers Stefan Morgan was born on March 30, 1965 in Newick, East Sussex, England to Vincent and Gabrielle O'Meara and was the youngest of four children. The future journalist attended an independent school from the ages of seven to 13 before attending Chailey School, a secondary institution near Lewes, East Sussex. His college years were spent at Harlow College, where he studied journalism. After a brief stint at insurance giant Lloyds of London, he joined the Surrey and South London Newspaper Group, where he paid his dues on a variety of beats. In the early 1990s, the Sun's longtime editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, recruited Morgan to write the column "Bizarre," where he steadily developed a no-nonsense approach to reporting. In 1994, the then 28-year-old reporter became the youngest national newspaper editor in more than half a century when he took the editorial helm of News of the World, Britain's best-selling newspaper by legendary publishing tycoon, Rupert Murdoch. There, he quickly developed a reputation as an insidious reporter who showed little concern for celebrities' privacy rights.
Morgan left News of the World in 1995 to become editor of an even bigger tabloid, The Daily Mirror, which became one of England's top-selling mass-market papers, due its highly sensationalized coverage of pop culture, politics and celebrities. Under Morgan's leadership, the paper ran numerous front-page stories denouncing the Iraq war and the presidency of George W. Bush. As an editor, Morgan made the headlines as often as he wrote them. He was widely criticized in 1996 for allowing the headline "Achtung! Surrender" one day before England's match with Germany in the semi-finals of the Euro '96 football championships. But the controversy did not end with that incident. In 2004, Morgan was held accountable and ultimately fired from his position when the paper featured fake photos of British soldiers abusing alleged Iraqi prisoners at an unknown location in Iraq. The Daily Mirror later issued a public apology and stated that the photos were the subject of a "calculated and malicious hoax." His sensationalist approach towards the news seemed to have taken a new turn in 2006 when he launched First News, a weekly paper that aimed to educate children about political and social issues in a language they could understand. While Morgan touted his new venture as "Britain's first national newspaper for children," others were not easily impressed and his propensity for infusing the paper with stories featuring celebrities did not help the matter.
In early 2000, Morgan began making headway in television. He hosted a three-part documentary series, "The Importance of Being Famous" (BBC, 2003) examining the media's coverage of celebrities. He co-hosted a similar BBC series documentary the same year, "Tabloid Tales," which delved into the symbiotic relationship between the tabloid press and the famous people they covered. Morgan's sharp wit and somewhat abrasive personality served him well in the short-lived news talk show "Morgan and Platell" (Channel 4 Television, 2004-05), where he shared top billing with Amanda Platell, a journalist and former press secretary of William Hague, leader of the British Conservative Party.
Morgan's career kicked into high gear when he took Simon Cowell's spot as judge on the second season of NBC's top-rated weekly competition series, "America's Got Talent," on which singers, dancers, comedians and novelty act performers vied for a $1 million cash prize and their own show in Las Vegas. Cowell, one of the creators of the show, had to bow out due to his "American Idol" (FOX, 2002- ) contract. Morgan was easily the toughest judge on a panel that consisted of David Hasselhoff and Sharon Osbourne, often dishing out harsh, insensitive remarks to the contestants. In one episode during the second season, Morgan told a 12-year-old contestant who played harmonica that he would be more successful if he dumped his guitar-playing, older brother from their act. But despite his callous reputation, Morgan sometimes displayed a sensitive side. In April 2009, he got into a verbal altercation with Hasselhoff about the fate of a husband-and-wife magic act. The couple reportedly had lost all their money and went on the show as a last chance effort to make a living. Hasselhoff voted them off and Osbourne gave them a "yes" vote. Morgan's tie-breaking "yes" vote set off Hasselhoff, who immediately approached Morgan's and threatened to hurt him. Stunned by his co-star's reaction, the Brit just shook his head and continued to stare daggers at Hasselhoff. Filming was abruptly halted to let the producers get a handle on the situation.
Morgan did not make many friends on yet another American reality series, "Celebrity Apprentice," on which he beat 13 other celebrities to nab the title "Best Business Brain." "Celebrity Apprentice" was the spin-off series of the highly successful "The Apprentice" (NBC, 2004- ), a show where contestants competed for a job as the underling who reports to billionaire boss, Donald Trump. He raised more than $500,000 for charity during the show, but not without enraging millions of TV viewers who found him too mean, boorish and merciless. Even Trump, who was known to be a ruthless businessman, called Morgan's business practices "evil." Morgan became embroiled in personal feuds with fellow contestant and reality TV personality Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, with the two of them repeatedly hurling personal insults at one another. The fights apparently did nothing to hurt the show's ratings, which climbed to nearly 10 million during its run.
Due to the overwhelming success of "America's Got Talent," a spin-off series "Britain's Got Talent" (iTV, 2007-09) was created and once again put Morgan in a judging seat. The series went on to become one of England's highest-rated reality competition series, where contestants vie for a huge cash prize and a chance to perform at the Royal Variety Performance in front of members of the Royal Family. Joining Morgan on the panel were Cowell and English actress Amanda Holden. In 2009, Morgan was witness to one of the most unforgettable moments on the series - perhaps in the history of the medium - when a matronly contestant named Susan Boyle performed a heart-wrenching rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical, "Les Miserables." Boyle, who was then 48, received a standing ovation from the audience and a resounding "yes" from the judges after having been initially dismissed by both the audience and the eye-rolling judges. Within days, video clips of her performance generated more than 100 million views on YouTube and boosted the British show to a launch record of 11.2 million viewers. Morgan, like the millions who were dumbfounded by Boyle's performance, reportedly said in interviews that watching Boyle was one of the most extraordinary moments in his career. While Boyle did not win top prize, she quickly became an international celebrity and a target of the paparazzi. Morgan frequently stood up for Boyle when the press hounded her, reportedly telling the media to back off and give Boyle a break, saying that the singer was just feeling the pressure of instant fame.
In 2009, the hard-nosed judge became the spokesperson of a humorous ad campaign to launch a so-called meat-scented cologne called "Flame" by Burger King. He appeared lying in front of a fire wearing nothing but a hip-hop-style Burger King chain necklace and a strategically placed velvet rug. The ad campaign was the fast food company's ironic take on glossy underwear ads featuring celebrities like soccer superstar David Beckham, who had posed for Armani underwear. The billboard ad ran in several sites in London, with the tagline: "The scent of seduction. With a hint of flame-grilled meat." He returned to iTV1 in 2009 with the series "Piers Morgan On " which saw him interviewing British celebrities living in Los Angeles. That same year, he also hosted "Piers Morgan's Life Stories" (iTV1), a talk show devoted to only one guest subject and filmed in front of a live audience. His first guest was his "America's Got Talent" co-star, Sharon Osbourne. In the wake of Larry King's announcement that he would retire from hosting his long-running CNN talk show, "Larry King Live" (1985- ), sometime guest host Morgan was rumored as a possible replacement. By September 2010, Morgan was confirmed as host, to begin in January 2011. However, his tenure on the network was not without controversy; not only did British government inquiries into the phone hacking scandal that enveloped all of Rupert Murdoch's newspaper properties (including News of the World during Morgan's tenure there) taint Morgan's journalistic credibility, the host regularly waded into hot-button topics such as gun control both on the air and on social media. In late February 2014, it was announced that "Piers Morgan Live" was going to be canceled, though it was unclear at first if Morgan was going to stay at CNN.