street of shame

Fifty years of filth
Hackwatch , Issue 1510

the-sun.jpg FROM “Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster” to “Up Yours Delors”, the Sun spent the whole of last week revelling in the front-page splashes, scoops and scandals of the past five decades as it celebrated its 50th anniversary. Here are a few that didn’t make the cut…

April 1974: Four years after the paper begins the tradition of soft porn at the breakfast table, “17-year-old Jerry Hall from Dallas, Texas”, makes her bare-breasted Page 3 debut. “Watch the Sun for more pictures of Jerry,” the paper warns – but the “Sun Super Girl” goes one better 42 years later by marrying the proprietor, Rupert Murdoch!

November 1982: Proving it is the patriotic paper that really backs Our Boys in the Falklands, the Sun fabricates a “world exclusive” interview with the widow of a Victoria Cross recipient killed in action. When war hero Simon Weston declines an interview request three years later, the paper repeats the trick with a cuts-job so exploitative the executive who commissioned it was suspended for a month.

February 1987: The Sun accuses Elton John of holding bondage orgies with rent boys, and then steps up a campaign of vitriol against him in September by claiming he’d had his pet dogs “silenced by a horrific operation”, despite them barking at the photographer sent to take photos of them. The following year the paper admits it was all nonsense, pays him a record £1m in damages, and prints a grovelling front-page apology beneath the headline “SORRY ELTON!”

April 1989: A notorious front page prepared by editor Kelvin MacKenzie (above) presents the exact opposite of the truth about the Hillsborough disaster. That November, with HIV diagnoses and deaths both on the rise, the paper prints the equally inaccurate and dangerous claim: “Straight Sex Cannot Give You Aids – Official.”

November 1998: “Sun speaks its mind – TELL US THE TRUTH TONY – Are we being run by a gay mafia?” demands the paper’s front page after several members of Tony Blair’s cabinet are revealed – against their wishes – to be gay. Following outrage, a screeching reverse-ferret: “From now on the Sun will not out homosexuals unless there is major public interest reason to do so,” editor David Yelland promises.

January 2010: News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks hits on a perfect method to dissuade publicist Max Clifford from suing the News of the World over the repeated hacking of his phone: “She got Max to agree £200,000 per annum to represent the Sun/do business with the Sun,” company minutes record. “She could physically turn up with cash to see him.” Clifford, who liked to boast of his ability to keep damaging stories out of the tabloids, is convicted of multiple sex offences four years later.

July 2011: In an attempt to distract attention from the News of the World hacking scandal, management at News International begin grassing up Sun reporters to the police for paying public officials in return for stories. Several journalists are arrested in dawn raids and held on bail for months on end. Two attempt suicide. At least 21 people who gave stories to the Sun, and should have had their identities protected in perpetuity as confidential sources, receive criminal convictions and several of them go to jail. The juries in several trials are told that all payments were encouraged, and authorised by, senior executives at the paper, but that paperwork demonstrating this has mysteriously gone missing. All the journalists are acquitted.

September 2018: After bullishly insisting all the way to the courtroom doors that it would be defending itself against accusations of phone-hacking on the Sun (as opposed to the ones it long since gave up denying on the late News of the World), News Group Newspapers crumbles and settles 15 such cases – but without making any “admission of liability” as regards the still-existing paper.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1510 of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 10th December 2019

More top stories in the latest issue:

The Evening Standard hit out at Labour plans to nationalise BT’s broadband arm, of which a major shareholder is BlackRock – a George Osborne employer.

The Spectator’s appointment of a “head of editorial partnerships and economics correspondent” reveals its eagerness to attract new corporate sponsors.

The Daily Mail noted that Jeremy Corbyn has “opposed almost every British military intervention since the Falklands”, despite the paper often sharing his view.

“Freddie Starr ate my hamster” was Sun readers’ favourite headline – even though it was fake news arranged with Starr’s PR man… Max Clifford.

Singer/performance artist Amanda Palmer’s bizarre ongoing feud with the Guardian’s unimpressed music hacks.

Merryn Somerset Webb sings the praises of investment trusts in the FT and Money Week – without adding that she is a director of several investment trusts.

Private Eye Issue 1510
In This Issue
Grand Old Duke of York relieved of duties… Those Labour promises to the Waspi women in full… City firms cut ties with prince’s charities… Game of Thrones actress “pressured over nudity”… New business conglomerate offers solution to UK flooding… Students rally against attacks on their democratic freedom… China pledges to crush democracy more respectfully after Hong Kong elections… Jeremy Corbyn writes…

Spy bye
An ex GCHQ director joins a company with a shady record

Intelligence test
The man vetting Tory candidates is uniquely qualified

Broad swipe
Osborne’s conflict of interests over BT broadband

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10th December 2019
Private Eye Issue 1509