In honour of the fact that The Sun seems to be so keen on digging through people’s social media histories to find any old tweets or Facebook posts that can be used against them, this blog thought it would be a good time to trawl through the paper’s own past to dredge up some misdemeanours that make silly offensive tweets from ten years ago look like child’s play.
Now, of course we are all aware of the shameful lies told about Liverpool football fans in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy. Lies that mean that to this day, the paper is not sold in newsagents throughout the city.
But here are nine other episodes from The Sun’s history that the paper would probably prefer weren’t mentioned. It’s something you can share with others the next time you feel that The Sun needs a taste of its own medicine.
THE TIME WHEN IT REJOICED IN THE SINKING OF AN ARGENTINIAN SHIP
The Sun‘s jingoistic coverage of the 1982 Falklands War reached a peak (or nadir) when the Argentinian General Belgrano ship was torpedoed and sunk while outside the 200 mile exclusion zone and reportedly sailing back to port. The paper’s front page headline read GOTCHA. It emerged that nearly 400 people were killed in the strike. Sun owner Rupert Murdoch was reportedly against changing the headline and toning down the reporting for later editions once the casualties were known.
THE TIME WHEN IT REFERRED TO AIDS AS THE GAY PLAGUE
Throughout much of the 80s, The Sun and its sister paper the (now defunct) News of the World repeatedly referred to the AIDs virus as the ‘gay plague’ and were among the main culprits spreading misinformation and hearsay about the disease. In 1989, the paper published an article titled STRAIGHT SEX CANNOT GIVE YOU AIDS – OFFICIAL and claimed the idea that heterosexuals also caught HIV was ‘homosexual propaganda’. The press regulators criticised the paper for ‘gross distortion’ but the punishment was a measly apology printed on page 28 (sound familiar?).
THE TIME WHEN IT CLAIMED ASYLUM SEEKERS WERE EATING SWANS
In 2003, the paper ran with a front page story headlined SWAN BAKE, claiming ‘callous asylum seekers are barbecuing the queen’s swans’. Although the story was supposedly based on an official Metropolitan Police report, it turned out that there was no record of any such offence. Again The Sun was sanctioned by the regulators but a mealy-mouthed clarification on page 41 was its only punishment.
THE TIME WHEN IT RAN A FEATURE CALLED ‘THE POOFS OF POP’
The Sun regularly ran homophobic pieces throughout the 1980s, speculating on which celebrities might be gay and looking to ‘out’ people with slurry headlines where it could. When EastEnders broadcast the first soap gay kiss, the paper published a front page story titled EASTBENDERS.
‘The Poofs of Pop’ was an 80s feature where Piers Morgan and Peter Willis speculated on whether various male pop stars were gay or not and spent their time hassling agents for a confession. According to Morgan, Sun editor at the time Kelvin Mackenzie was obsessed with people’s sexuality. ‘He generally thought that anyone who played a ‘dodgy sport’ – i.e. not football or boxing – spoke in a posh accent, sang pop music or just walked in a funny way was ‘as bent as a nine bob note’. And his staff were encouraged to share his suspicions rather than commit professional and medical suicide by challenging them.’
THE TIME WHEN IT HACKED THE PHONES OF RELATIVES OF MURDER VICTIMS
Let’s not forget that employees of the News of the World, which was the sister Sunday paper of The Sun until its closure in 2011, hacked into the phones of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, relatives of dead British soldiers and victims of the 7 July London bombings. Worth remembering this little nugget next time you see a Sun scoop on someone’s old tweets where they’re found to have used an offensive word once.
THE TIME WHEN IT RIDICULED MENTAL ILLNESS
In 2003, the paper covered the story of Frank Bruno’s deteriorating mental health with the sensitive front page headline BONKERS BRUNO LOCKED UP. Following public criticism, the headline in the later edition of the paper was changed to SAD BRUNO IN MENTAL HOME.
THE TIME WHEN RUPERT MURDOCH WAS CAUGHT TAX DODGING
The Sun may revel in reporting that the likes of Gary Lineker or Lewis Hamilton have been caught up in tax avoidance schemes, but as far back as 2001 an investigation into News Corp found that it had avoided £350 million in corporation tax over an 11 year period.
THE TIME WHEN IT PAID £22K TO A POLICEMAN FOR INFORMATION
In 2015, Sun reporter Anthony France was found guilty of buying 43 stories from PC Timothy Edwards for £22,000 between 2008 and 2011. Thirty-eight of the stories were published in the paper. Edwards pleaded guilty to committing misconduct in a public office in 2014 and was jailed for two years.
THE TIME WHEN IT COMPARED MIGRANTS TO COCKROACHES
In 2015, columnist Katie Hopkins called migrants crossing the Mediterranean ‘cockroaches’ who were ‘spreading like the norovirus’. She advocated using gunships rather than rescue boats to deal with them. Her comments led to the UN High Commission for Human Rights making a statement in which it compared Hopkins’ language to that used by Rwandan reporters to stoke up hatred in the run up to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at firstname.lastname@example.org to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.
Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.