In Flat Earth News, his go-to book on the machinations of our free and fearless press, Nick Davies said of the Daily Mail’s persistent libelling of its targets “facts are swept aside or distorted; the story is published; the subject of the story then complains and is confronted by the wealth and cleverness of the Mail which will fight them right up to the point of final defeat, when, if need be, it will surrender and offer some kind of deal”.
You're getting smeared in the morning
Then, in a coda which former footballer and Match of the Day lead presenter Gary Lineker may recognise, he added “It’s like watching a footballer who, finding himself the last man between his opponent and his gaping goal, will deliberately foul the opponent in order to protect that goal, calculating that it is worth it even if he is punished by the referee. Brilliant and corrupt, the Daily Mail is the professional foul of contemporary Fleet Street”.
Who f***ing says I can't libel him, c***?!?!?
In late 2016, the professional foul on Lineker was clumsily executed by the Mail’s diarist Sebastian Shakespeare, making claims about what happened between Lineker and his then fiancée Danielle Bux on a flight from London to Naples. The story he related was supplied by “fellow passenger Teresa Mahon, who shared the Club Class cabin with the loved-up couple”. The problem was that the story was totally, and provably, untrue.
London to Naples. With no Club Class cabin
And after fighting Lineker’s complaint for more than fifteen months, the Mail agrees that it was untrue, confessing “An article on November 5, 2016 entitled ‘How loved up Gary Lineker and his ex Danielle shocked fellow passengers with their amorous display on-board a British Airways flight’ reported claims made by a third party that Gary and Danielle had engaged in lewd and inappropriate sexual behaviour in a public place in front of young children”. Yes? Yes yes? Yes yes yes?
“While the article was published in good faith, we have since been informed by Gary and Danielle, and accept, that these claims are false … We apologise for any distress and embarrassment caused”. That must have hurt - the Mail saying sorry. And as to “good faith” - forget it. It was a hit piece, a punishment beating, a clear attempt to bully Lineker back into line for daring to be of independent opinion.
All those who look in regularly on Zelo Street will know how easily the story could be debunked: the aircraft British Airways uses for its London to Naples services do not have a “Club class cabin”. They are not big enough to offer those paying more the opportunity to turn left after entering the plane, rather than right. This was pointed out at the time.
And Lineker has now acknowledged the Mail’s mealy-mouthed apology, telling “An apology from the Daily Mail admitting their fabricated, false story was published in good faith: cheers”, before warning “Challenging falsehoods in newspapers is a long, arduous and expensive process”. So it sounds like the Dacre doggies did their best to fob him off. This, though, does not work with opponents who have both money, and facts, on their side.
But good to see that Zelo Street had the right story yet again. Perhaps one day Sebastian Shakespeare and his pals will do some basic research before smearing their targets.
Problem is, like the defender executing his professional foul, the penalty of having to pay up and say sorry over a year later is not sufficient deterrent. I’ll just leave that one there.