Daily Spew admits: we printed garbage

The Daily Spew and Black Hole today printed front-page apologies to Gerry and Kate McCann, whose daugher Madeleine went missing in Portugal last year, for printing false and defamatory stories about them on numerous occasions. This recalls an incident in which the Snail Trail had to cough up to Hugh Grant for printing false stories about him based on “close friends/sources”, a euphemism for someone who doesn’t know the subject that well if at all, knows nothing and is making it all up. (Update: Brian Cathcart in the New Statesman writes that national newspapers should be queuing up to apologise as most of them have printed various speculative, defamatory stories “with no better grounding than the prior speculations of the Portuguese press (and sometimes not even that)”; also 5CC notes that the paper leads with a story raising suspicion about a much poorer parent whose daughter went missing and was found last week.)

I wonder if they plan to apologise to the Muslims, about whom they routinely print inflammatory stories based on rumours, opinion polls which always get the same sensational results (Muslims want Shari’a law in England etc.), and petty incidents involving dumb council jobsworths? Or perhaps the Gypsies, against whom they ran a hate/fear campaign around the time of EU enlargement in 2004?

Years ago, the BBC did a comedy based on the political career of its journalist Martin Bell, who stood as an independent in the Hatton seat in Cheshire in 1997 to get rid of the corrupt Tory MP whose name I’ve forgotten (he came round to my college at Aberystwyth and gave a speech, and had the hall in uproar by saying “I feel a bit of a fraud …” about something other than his political career). The fictionalised Bell got to introduce a Private Members’ Bill, and proposed that when someone gets libelled, he or she should get that amount of space to print whatever they like - a contradiction of the original story, an appeal not to buy the paper, “or a poem about squirrels”. Anyone who wanted real cold revenge would pick the latter, of course, or worse, something in an obscure language such as an extract from the Bratislava phone book, which really would dent their circulation.

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