Our free and fearless press has clung tenaciously to the line that they have cleaned up their act since the bad old days of the late and not at all lamented Screws, but each instance of bad post-Leveson behaviour chips away at this defensive wall. And so often, for press reform campaigners, the opposition rides to the rescue: in the case of the Murdoch Sun and former Guardian CEO David Pemsel, it has come galloping.
The Murdoch goons went after Pemsel last November, in a front page article that made some pretty upfront allegations about his private life. The fallout can be gauged by the Press Gazette account of what happened next, and its headline “Sun apologises to ex-Guardian chief David Pemsel over article that cost him top job”.
Pemsel had been up for the CEO position at football’s Premier League. He ended up resigning from the post before he had even started the job. So the Murdoch mafiosi score a few more sales and clicks, and their target has his life screwed up and career trashed. The Sun’s apology merely hints at the damage done.
“On 28 November 2019 we published a front page article on Mr Pemsel. Mr Pemsel complained that he did not behave as alleged. We accept that the article did not accurately reflect his position. We have removed the article and will not republish it. We apologise to Mr Pemsel” they tell. But the Sun was not alone in its endeavour.
To no surprise at all, the day after the Sun ran its front page attack, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog also went after Pemsel. After all, this involved the hated Guardian, an organisation which has, as far as is known, declined to allow Staines or any of his dubiously talented minions in the door.
Under the less than totally subtle headline “Guardian’s CEO Is A Sex Pest”, The Great Guido sneers “David Pemsel is the CEO of The Guardian and a 51 year-old married man. Above are some of his texts to a twentysomething female colleague. He was about to transfer to become the CEO of the Premier League. Unfortunately now these texts have come to light that won’t be happening. According to one Guardian source ‘it is amazing really, the common consensus in Kings Place is that the only person he fancied in the whole building was himself.’” An invented “Guardian source” too. Bless.
The difference between the Fawkes massive and the Murdoch press is that the latter took down their article and have now said sorry - albeit more than three months after smearing him and losing him his job. The Fawkes post is still up. Worse for Staines and his attack poodles, publications like Business Insider caveated their accounts by noting that the screen shots “appear to show” certain behaviours.
All of which, along with the uncharacteristic unqualified apology from the Sun, suggests that Pemsel instructed lawyers to deal with the Murdoch mafiosi, and that he may have to do likewise to ensure the Fawkes rabble does as their pals in the Baby Shard Bunker.
Someone taking The Great Guido to the cleaners at long last? Here’s hoping.
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