The coronavirus pandemic is "the biggest news story that any of us have every dealt with," Piers Morgan says, and it requires "a different approach from the traditional news anchor approach."
"Viewers want to see passion, they want to see anger, they want to see focus," Morgan said.
That's what the former CNN host has been bringing to his interviews on "Good Morning Britain" on the ITV network. Morgan, who has courted controversy his entire career, has earned applause for challenging British lawmakers and health officials about shortcomings when it comes to handling the coronavirus crisis.
Morgan applied the same "feet to the fire" approach while talking about his longtime friend President Trump on Sunday. He returned to CNN for an interview on "Reliable Sources" and said that Trump "is failing the American people" on almost every level.
Morgan was particularly critical of the president's performance at near-daily White House briefings, which he said he has watched "with mounting horror."
"He's turning these briefings into a self-aggrandizing, self-justifying, overly defensive, politically partisan, almost like a rally to him -- almost like what's more important is winning the election in November," Morgan said.
Then he addressed the president directly: "You will win the election in November if you get this right. If you stop making it about yourself and make it about the American people and show that you care about them over yourself, you will win. And, conversely, you will lose the election in November if you continue to make it about yourself, you continue playing silly politics, continue targeting Democrat governors because that suits you for your electoral purposes."
Piers & The President
Morgan and Trump have known each other for more than a decade. A former tabloid newspaper editor in Britain, Morgan was a judge on "America's Got Talent" when he was cast on "The Celebrity Apprentice" in 2008. He hit it off with Trump and won the "Apprentice" title in the season finale.
Morgan has interviewed Trump repeatedly during the president's trips to the United Kingdom. He has defended his friend against criticism in numerous columns for The Daily Mail, but has also chastised the president for promoting vile rhetoric and lying to the American people.
One of Morgan's recent columns for the Mail was titled "America doesn't want a King Trump." He said he wrote it because he has grown "aghast at these press conferences," which are "typical Trump, but are so grating in a global pandemic crisis."
In an interview, Morgan said he applied a "critical friend" perspective to writing about Trump. And he noted, "he still follows me on Twitter."
Morgan has bruising words for British leaders, as well. Speaking on CNN Sunday, he said there are troubling parallels between the US and UK responses to the pandemic.
"You have two populist leaders in Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. And all the tricks that they used to become popular and to win elections and to lead their countries are now being tested in a very different way," Morgan said. "It's not about partisan politics anymore. It's about plain war crisis leadership."
"What I've noticed with both Boris Johnson and with Donald Trump is an apparent inability to segue into being war leaders," he added. "They're still playing the old games of party politics."
An unlikely "voice of reason"
On "Good Morning Britain," Morgan has had fiery exchanges with Johnson's health secretary Matt Hancock; care minister Helen Whately; and work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey.
With Coffey, Morgan spoke out about the government's "complacent attitude" and said "we spent weeks refusing to accept the severity of this crisis."
Each of the interviews garnered lots of attention -- with some viewers siding with Morgan and others saying he went too far. That's par for the course with the polarizing host.
A recent column in the Metro newspaper called him an unlikely "voice of reason" while noting that many viewers love to hate him. It was titled "You don't have to like Piers Morgan but he's absolutely right about coronavirus."
Morgan is far from the only host in the UK garnering praise for pushing government officials on their response to the crisis. But for some, he's a surprising figure filling what they believe is a void.
"Why is Piers Morgan doing the job of both the press *and* the Labour Party right now?" tweeted Kerry-Anne Mendoza, editor in chief of the far left-wing news site The Canary.
But not everyone is convinced. Des Freedman, professor of media and communications at Goldsmith University, called Morgan "the nation's most controversial anchorman" who aims to provoke anyone who sits across from him.
"He excels in vitriol and outrage but like every stopped clock, he seems to be right twice a day (or maybe in his case, twice a week)," Freedman commented.
Professor Steven Barnett of the University of Westminster, who has advised parliament on various media issues, called Morgan "a narcissistic showman who thrives equally on notoriety and adulation."
"The fact that he's suddenly discovered what real journalism might be about should not distract from his overwhelming ambition to be the centre of attention," Barnett said.
Morgan isn't a stranger to that criticism. He delights in getting into scrapes on Twitter. On Sunday, he retweeted viewers who said they were surprised to be agreeing with his comments.
To a user who said "Trump has lost Piers Morgan," the host wrote, "He hasn't lost me. I just want him to listen & pivot."
"He has to put the country before himself," Morgan said on CNN. "He has to put Americans before electioneering. He has to remind himself every day, 'What can I do today to prevent more lives being killed?' Not 'How can I score more petty points.'"