Like Ben Stokes, it was his parents that were doorstepped first: former rugby star Gareth Thomas, who has just revealed that he has been living with HIV for some time now, has also described how an unnamed tabloid newspaper made threats to publicise his condition. No title has been named as the source of this particularly shabby blackmail attempt, but the trail is already leading back to the Baby Shard bunker.
As the BBC has reported, “Former rugby player Gareth Thomas has said a journalist spoke to his parents about his HIV status before they had discussed it. He said he would ‘absolutely not’ have made his diagnosis public if a tabloid had not made threats to publish it … And he criticised the fact a reporter approached his parents before the family had discussed it properly”. Yes, his parents heard the news not from him but from the press.
Thomas was not impressed. “Imagine what position that puts me in. I can never, ever, ever have that moment back with my mother and father of sitting down and telling them something so personal to me … They took that right away from me … I’m lucky that I have parents who love me and will support me through anything, but I deserved to have that moment with them”. It was, like the Stokes story, uncaring and shabby.
And Thomas dropped one hell of a heavy hint. “I've been living in fear of it being published … The tabloids will create their own law … You’ll send them a letter and all they'll do is ignore it. I haven't got the money to be able to fight a giant tabloid in court … When they do it they'll somehow find justification for doing it. They'll say it's OK, a family member told us something”. Giant tabloid. And the Sun used the “family member” defence with Stokes.
Worse for the Murdoch goons, as Private Eye magazine has observed, the Sun on Sunday told readers last month that “a British sports star is set to publicly announce they are HIV positive … A source said: ‘the star has given this a lot of thought and plans to make the announcement on Twitter. It will cause a sensation but they are prepared for that’”. Note use of “British” instead of “English”. And the Sun staple “a source said”.
On top of all that are the questions as to how the Sun - if indeed it is the Sun - got hold of Thomas’ medical records, or otherwise knew for certain that he was HIV positive. That information is not available to hacks, or should not be. As Brian Cathcart has concluded, “Thomas was initially cagey about the identity of the tabloid in his case, but today he hinted at the [Sun]. 'Everybody will know [which paper it was]', he said, 'especially of late'. You might read 'of late' as a reference to the [BenStokes] affair”.
They'll do nothing ...
He went on “If it was - and evidence is accumulating - then it would make a remarkable double alongside [BenStokes] - not one but two sports stars horribly abused on [Tony] Gallagher’s watch without a shred of public interest, and in both cases their parents gratuitously subjected to suffering”. Quite. It’s now time for the Sun to come clean.
... so perhaps we should have Part 2 of this
Gareth Thomas has dropped sufficient hints. So has Private Eye. Do Tony Gallagher and Rebekah Brooks have the spine to come clean and own up? Or do they leave it to the target of this latest shabby exposé to do the deed for them?
There is, of course, one simple solution to this problem: Don’t buy the Sun.
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