Former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck has defended the public interest of publishing stories which alleged that David Beckham had cheated on his wife and F1 boss Max Mosley had taken part in a "Nazi orgy".
Mr Thurlbeck was fired by News International in September after being arrested in April on suspicion of hacking phones while working at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid.
He told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards that he would not comment on phone hacking.
Instead, he was questioned about the justification of publishing so-called "kiss and tell" stories.
In the case of David Beckham's alleged affair with Rebecca Loos, Mr Thurlbeck said there was a "huge public interest" in going to print.
"He was sponsored left, right and centre," he said. "He was always promoting himself with his family as a happy modern man. It was a wholesome image that the family cultivated and the public bought into on a massive scale, and we exposed that as a sham."
He said that although the average payment to the source of a front-page article was "£15,000 to £20,000", Ms Loos was paid "a six-figure sum".