(LONDON) -- Former News of the World editor Piers Morgan appeared to backpedal before a British ethics inquiry Tuesday, first saying that he didn't believe he had listened to any hacked phone messages, then refusing to discuss how he came to hear a taped conversation between Paul McCartney and Heather Mills.
"I can't discuss where I heard that tape or who made it," Morgan told the Leveson Inquiry looking into Britain's phone hacking scandal. Asked if he listened to a tape of a phone message, Morgan replied, "Yes, I believe it was yes. I'm not going to discuss where I heard it or who played it to me."
When the CNN host was asked by Lord Justice Brian Leveson whether he thought it was unethical to listen to someone else's message, Morgan said, "It doesn't necessarily follow that listening to someone else talking to someone else is unethical."
Leveson responded that he would be "perfectly happy" to call Mills to ask her whether she gave Morgan permission to listen to her calls, to which Morgan replied, "Well, what do you expect me to say? I'm not going into details."
Mills has previously said that Morgan could not have obtained her voice mail message honestly.
Morgan appeared on the defensive after admitting under persistent questioning that he had heard the tortured phone message between Mills and McCartney as their marriage was unraveling. Earlier he had testified that he did not believe he had listened to any illegally obtained phone messages.
Morgan has steadfastly denied knowledge of phone hacking by his staff when he was editor of two of Rupert Murdoch's British tabloids, News of the World and the Daily Mirror.
The inquiry was set up by Prime Minister David Cameron after it was made public that News of the World had illegally eavesdropped on the voice mail messages of celebrities and other public figures.
Actors Hugh Grant and Sienna Miller, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and singer Charlotte Church have all spoken before the inquiry about widespread press abuse, while executives and lawyers for Murdoch's News Corp. have defended the tabloid.
Morgan has been under scrutiny since the scandal broke over the summer.
Back in July, British political blogger Paul Staines, who blogs under the name Guido Fawkes, claimed to have discovered a 2009 recording where some interpret Morgan as admitting knowledge of hacking and other unsavory activities by Murdoch journalists.
The former Fleet Street editor has also fought off accusations from James Hipwell, a former Daily Mirror financial columnist who called illegal phone hacking "endemic" during Morgan's tenure. Hipwell is scheduled to testify Wednesday before the inquiry.
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