by Brian Cathcart
Today has been the day when, amazingly, we were asked to view the Daily Mail as a victim. The world is ganging up on Britain’s number two selling daily, we are told. Criticism of its attacks on the dead father of the Labour leader were a cynical political manoeuvre. The paper was even owed an apology, according to one senior journalist.
The Mail is not a victim. Quite the reverse. It has a long record of publishing falsehoods about vulnerable people and it rarely apologises. Here are just a few examples from its recent past.
The McCanns. In July 2008 Gerry and Kate McCann sued Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail and (then) the London Evening Standard, for libel in relation to no fewer than 85 articles. Gerry McCann told the Leveson Inquiry: ‘The complaint was resolved with the payment of a substantial donation to be used in the search for Madeleine, and the publication of an apology by the Evening Standard. While the Daily Mail agreed to carry a number of free adverts (or appeals for information) on behalf of the Find Madeleine campaign in their continental editions, they were not willing to publish an apology. The Mail resisted on the basis that they had published a number of articles which were supportive of us which they believed largely balanced the articles reporting allegations and suspicions about us.’
Robert Murat. Shortly before it joined the mass libellous attack on the McCanns, the Daily Mail had been one of ten newspapers to monster Robert Murat, a perfectly innocent Englishman unlucky enough to live in the Portuguese village where Madeleine McCann disappeared. It subsequently paid Mr Murat damages, admitting that it had been completely wrong.
Christopher Jefferies. The Daily Mail joined in the orgy of libels against Christopher Jefferies, the retired Bristol teacher who was landlord to murder victim Joanna Yeates. It called him ‘Mr Strange’, claimed he was obsessed with Christina Rosetti, asked pointedly if he ‘held the key’ to the murder and alleged for good measure that he had deserted his dying mother. Like seven other papers, the Mail once again admitted in court that there was not a scintilla of truth in what it had published – much of it on the front page.
Stephen Gately. On the eve of the funeral of the Boyzone singer, the Mail’s Jan Moir declared that his death was ‘not by any yardstick a natural one’, although as a matter of fact he died of an undiagnosed heart condition. Moir also wrote that the circumstances of his death were ‘more than a little sleazy’ and implied that it called into doubt the merits of civil partnerships. This was widely condemned. Moir then declared that it was ‘mischievous’ to suggest her comments were homophobic. Her editor, Paul Dacre, told the Leveson Inquiry that ‘the piece could have benefited from judicious subbing’.
Lucy Meadows. The Mail’s Richard Littlejohn declared of Lucy Meadows, a primary school teacher in gender transition: ‘He’s not only in the wrong body, he’s in the wrong job’. He said Meadows should have quit her job and implied that no one had thought of the ‘devastating effect‘ on pupils. In fact the transition had been very carefully planned at the school. Meadows complained about this to the Press Complaints Commission, but took her own life in March. The coroner at her inquest, Michael Singleton, described the conduct of the Mail in his concluding remarks: ‘Having carried out what can only be described as a character assassination, having sought to ridicule and humiliate Lucy Meadows and bring into question her right to pursue her career as a teacher, the Daily Mail’s response was to offer to remove the article from the website. It seems to me that nothing has been learnt from the Leveson Inquiry or subsequent report.’
Parameswaran Subramanyam. In 2010 the Mail alleged that while he was on a hunger strike outside Parliament Mr Subramanyam secretly ate McDonalds hamburgers. It claimed that this had been spotted by secret monitoring equipment. The claim was entirely unfounded, as the Mail later admitted in court. Mr Subramanyam told the BBC: ‘The past eight months have been an unbearable strain on my life, to the extent that at times I have even contemplated taking my own life. As a result of the lies that the newspapers published about me, and through no fault of my own, I have lost friends, been shunned by family members and completely ostracised from the Tamil community.’
And that’s just a small selection.