Piers Morgan: Obama's Restored U.S. Reputation

FLOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 29: TV personality Piers Morgan arrives at the 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 29, 2010, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images) eed GETTY

The man named by CNN to replace Larry King as its main primetime interviewer -- British tabloid veteran Piers Morgan -- says one of the people he'd like to talk with is President Obama.

In an exclusive morning TV interview, Morgan wouldn't tell "Early Show" special contributor Amanda Holden who his first guest will be, but he did share a short list of people he'd like to get in front of the cameras - and Mr. Obama's on the list.

"I'd love to (interview) President Obama," said Morgan. "I like what he's done for the reputation of America abroad, which I'm not sure many Americans fully understand. But he has restored the reputation of America, in my view, hugely."

Morgan says Mr. Obama's not the only president he'd like to interview. "Bill Clinton (is) another one. One of the most charismatic people I've ever seen."

Also on his list: Mel Gibson. "What a story he's got to tell!" Morgan commented.

He's slated to start his new gig in January. King's last night hosting "Larry King Live" is scheduled for Dec. 16.

Morgan, best-known in the U.S. as a judge on NBC's "America's Got Talent," told Holden that King is "one of my heroes. And what I loved about the show always was that he could (interview) a president one minute and Paris Hilton the next, and be equally comfortable. And there aren't many people who can do that."

Holden and Morgan are both judges on "Britain's Got Talent" (the show that discovered Susan Boyle), and Morgan has his own talk show, "Piers Morgan's Life Stories," on Britain's ITV.

The long-running "Larry King Live" is in third-place in the primetime cable talk wars, behind Fox News
Channel's Sean Hannity and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

King's career has included some 40,000 interviews. He's seen as the man everyone's opened up to.

A frenzy of speculation erupted over who'd take his spot. Familiar names such as Ryan Seacrest, Joy Behar and Howard Stern were mentioned.

But Morgan quickly emerged as the frontrunner.

"If I'm as memorable in 40 years time as he's become, I'll be absolutely thrilled," Morgan told Holden.

And, in one of his very first interviews since the news became public, Morgan observed to Holden that the enormity of the news job is still sinking in.

He's one of the most-respected interviewers in the United Kingdom, Holden says.

Morgan's calling card is his blunt style - in contrast to a softer approach King generally took over the years.

On "Piers Morgan's Life Stories," he's faced off with prime ministers, such as an exchange with former PM Gordon Brown, in which Morgan said, "Let me spell it out or you: There was a lot of narcotics washing around universities."

"I've never touched cannabis or hard drugs," Brown responded.

"Never inhaled?" Morgan asked. "Never exhaled?"

Referring to that style, Holden told Morgan, "My husband always says that you pump the cushions up nicely, and then you whack 'em!"

"I don't think I whack people," Morgan replied. "But I do I think -- probably what I'm known for in Britain most is asking very direct questions."

Such as when he asked Simon Cowell, "How vain are you?"

"Not that vain, actually," Cowell responded.

"How do you say that and keep a straight face?" Morgan pressed on.

"Wait. I know how you do it" Botox!" he joked.

Morgan's become an insider on both sides of the Atlantic, with everyone from Hollywood's elite to Britain's royals.

"I had a lunch with (Princess) Diana and Prince William when he was 13," Morgan recalled for Holden. … She was gorgeous. I remember thinking (this is) the most beautiful woman I've ever seen in my life."

"American audiences have absolutely no idea, really, of your journalistic background," Holden pointed out. "And you have feasted on celebrities in our country (laughter)."

"Well," Morgan said, "I find the celebrity culture fascinating. But I also find a lot of them to be overpaid, under-worked, pampered little prima donnas. … So, when I find whining celebrities, it really gets on my nerves."

He's interviewed countless celebs, and many have become his friends, Holden says, adding that he told her he's the one who introduced Paul McCartney to Heather Mills, and encouraged him to go out with her. That led to an ill-fated marriage. Sir Paul later told Morgan that advice had cost him $50 million (in the divorce settlement). "Thanks, mate," McCartney kidded Morgan.

Morgan also says Sarah Ferguson begged him for an introduction to Tiger Woods a few years before the scandal surrounding Woods broke. He didn't do it.

He says flatly he's determined to make his mark on American TV. "I want to become the person big stars in America, big public figures feel they can go to for an entertaining encounter. … But they'll be thinking, 'It wasn't an easy ride. That was the perfect interview." '

Morgan's new show doesn't have a name yet, but will be based in New York, Holden says. He'll also shuttle between London and Los Angeles, where his family lives. He has a new wife, Celia Walden, who's also a journalist, and three sons, 17, 13, and 9, from a previous marriage. Because but he sees his boys every night via Skype.

Holden says he's a total news junkie, and tells her he can't wait for the next big story to break. His grandfather was a journalist, as was his father for awhile. He says he knew he wanted to be a reporter since he was six years old, and replacing King is a dream come true.
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