Kelvin MacKenzie apologises for claim about sources of Hillsborough disaster story

By Hamish Mackay

December 12, 2011 | 3 min read

The former editor of The Sun, Kelvin MacKenzie, has withdrawn his claim that a controversial front-page story carried by the redtop about the Hillsborough disaster came from a Liverpool news agency.

His apology came in a statement to the BBC after one Liverpool news agency threatened to take legal action against him over his comments.

The Sun story was carried under the headline ‘The Truth’ and was printed four days after the tragedy. It pointed the blame at drunken Liverpool fans, claiming information from police had revealed that fans had urinated on police and assaulted officers attempting to help the injured.

MacKenzie made the claim that it emanated from Liverpool on the BBC’s Daily Politics show on Thursday.

However, media pundit, Roy Greenslade, reports in his blog on The Guardian website: “He (MacKenzie) has retracted his statement … and apologised for blaming reporters in the city.

“He now realises that the story originated from Yorkshire. He contacted the BBC to say: ‘Having just checked with The Sun's news editor at the time, it is clear that the story didn't come from the Liverpool agencies but came from agencies in the Sheffield area.

“’I apologise for getting it wrong, but it was 21 years ago’."

Greenslade recalled that he thought the story was the result of an interview with a police federation spokesman - interviewed on radio and TV, but points out: “Then again, that interview was obviously picked up by an agency.

“There is no way that the story, which was widely disseminated to every national paper, could have arrived on newsdesks unless it was sent by an accredited agency.

“That does not mean that agency itself did anything wrong, of course. The mistake was in The Sun's interpretation of those false allegations.”

The threat of legal action had come from Chris Johnson, editor of the Mercury news agency in Liverpool who told the Liverpool Echo that Mackenzie’s claim was “ludicrous”.

Johnson, news editor of Mercury in 1989 when 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives in the FA Cup tie in Sheffield, speaking before Mackenzie’s apology, was quoted as telling the Echo: “You put a rat in a corner and it bites at the first thing it can find.

“This isn’t the first time MacKenzie has said this, he tried it before in 2007 – he is trying to lay a false trail and turn the tables back on Liverpool for his very sloppy piece of journalism.

“Our lawyers have written to MacKenzie and demanded he retract this statement.”

Johnson added: “I’d bet my life that story didn’t come from Liverpool, in the strongest terms. It was not something which originated in this city.”

On the BBC show MacKenzie had admitted that if he did the story again he would do it differently.



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