The Sun has stood by its headline claiming the Queen backs a 'Brexit' from the European Union after the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) ruled the headline was “significantly misleading” following a complaint from Buckingham Palace.
The editor of the Sun, Tony Gallagher, has today (18 May) insisted that the Queen “strongly” believes the UK should leave the EU and has disputed Ipso's claim that the paper made a mistake.
“Do I accept we made a mistake?” Gallagher told Radio 4’s Today programme on this morning. “In all conscience I don’t.”
When asked if he had made a journalistic error in approving the headline, he said: “I don’t accept that we made an error at all. We made a judgment that the headline was right and that it was backed up by the story.
“We knew more than we put in the public domain. The sources were so impeccable that we had no choice but to run the story in the way that we did.”
The Sun claimed in March that the monarch had criticised the EU at a lunch with government ministers, including pro-EU Nick Clegg, a claim which Buckingham Palace reputed. It is understood to be the first time that the Palace has complained to Ipso.
After publication, the Sun’s account had been rejected by attendee and former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg as “nonsense”, although two other attendees – justice minister Michael Gove and Tory MP Cheryl Gillan – declined comment.
Gallagher told Today: “We were in no doubt that the Queen’s views were strongly of the opinion she would want to leave the European Union.”
'The Sun Says' editorial which ran today stood by the body of the story, reading "A newspaper wouldn't be a newspaper if it got wind of such views - so clearly in the public's interest to read - and didn't publish them".
Ipso ruled that the newspaper’s headline had breached clause 1 (accuracy) of the editors’ code of practice. The verdict was printed in an article on page two of the newspaper today.
Ipso said that while the article itself did not breach the code, the headline did as it was “a factual assertion that the Queen had expressed a position in the referendum debate, and there was nothing in the headline, or the manner in which it was presented on the newspaper’s front page, to suggest that this was conjecture, hyperbole, or was not to be read literally”.
Gallagher told Today on Wednesday: “The headline is only misleading if you include the words ‘bombshell claim over Europe votes’, which are in capital letters on the front page. I emphasise the word ‘claim’ … so they reached the ruling by disregarding those words.”
The decision is also the first time Ipso has ruled on the newly-revised clause 1 of the editors’ code of practice, which makes specific reference to “headlines not supported by the text” as an example of inaccurate, misleading or distorted information.