Tuesday 24 April 2018

Sun former editor recounts 40 minute phone call of non stop abuse from Murdoch

Kelvin MacKenzie leaves the High Court after giving evidence to the Leveson enquiry
Kelvin MacKenzie leaves the High Court after giving evidence to the Leveson enquiry

Sam Marsden

A FORMER editor of The Sun today said the newspaper is now "less bullish" than it was when he was in charge.

Kelvin MacKenzie, who edited The Sun from 1981 to 1994, told the Leveson Inquiry the newspaper has taken a "more cautious" approach since the 1980s.

He said: "Towards the end of my time as editor I was less bullish than I was, perhaps, during the 80s."

Mr MacKenzie told the inquiry: "The editors are more cautious and were probably right to be cautious."

He went on to say The Sun's owner Rupert Murdoch was furious when he found out the newspaper was to pay £1 million in damages to Elton John after a story claimed the singer had hired rent boys.

"Let's put it this way, " he said "He wasn't pleased."

The former editor said he remembered sending the media mogul a fax, then receiving a 40-minute phone call of "non-stop abuse".

The proceedings were held up shortly into Mr MacKenzie's evidence, as a man shouted across the courtroom: "Ask him about Michael Stone."

Lord Justice Leveson told the man to stop, or he would be asked to leave.

The man replied: "Am I in contempt?"

Lord Leveson said: "I'm not going into that."

After the brief interruption Mr MacKenzie stood by comments he made in a Leveson Inquiry seminar in October, when he said: "My view was that if it sounded right it was probably right and therefore we should lob it in."

Asked today by Robert Jay QC, counsel for the Leveson Inquiry: "Do you stand by that?"

He replied: "Yes, I do."

He said that he had looked up the definition of the word "lob" in an online dictionary, and found it to mean throw "in a slow arc".

"The point I'm making is that we thought about something, and then put it in," he said.

Mr MacKenzie has previously described the press standards inquiry as "ludicrous" and suggested it is only being held because of Prime Minister David Cameron's "obsessive arse-kissing" of Rupert Murdoch.

The colourful former editor was behind a number of controversial front-page Sun headlines, including "Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster" and "Gotcha" about the sinking of the Argentine warship General Belgrano during the Falklands War in May 1982.

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