Tuesday, 26 April 2016
And although the editor at the time, Kelvin MacKenzie, later apologised, there will never be any room for the Sun in some Liverpudlian households ever again.
It all started on the Wednesday following the Hillsborough disaster in April 1989, when MacKenzie was about to make what he later described as a "fundamental mistake".
According to Peter Chippindale and Chris Horrie in their definitive history Stick it Up Your Punter - the Rise and Fall of the Sun, MacKenzie spent an unusual amount of time deliberating over the fateful headline for that day's paper.
"MacKenzie then did an enormously uncharacteristic thing. He sat for fully half an hour thinking about the front page layout."
According to the book he pondered two headlines, one that was rejected reading "You Scum", and the one that was eventually used - and was to prove the biggest disaster for the paper's reputation and sales: "The Truth".
A team of about 18 journalists and photographers had been sent to cover the story, and although reporter Harry Arnold sought out MacKenzie to caution against reporting allegations as truth, MacKenzie pressed on.
Having decided to lay the blame on the fans' doorsteps, there was no stopping him.
Under the headline "The Truth" there were three subheadings:
Some fans picked pockets of victims
Some fans urinated on the brave cops
Some fans beat up PCs giving the kiss of life
The story read as follows: "Drunken Liverpool fans viciously attacked rescue workers as they tried to revive victims of the Hillsborough soccer disaster, it was revealed last night.
"Police officers, firemen and ambulance crew were punched, kicked and urinated upon by a hooligan element in the crowd.
"Some thugs rifled the pockets of injured fans as they were stretched out unconscious on the pitch.
"Sheffield MP Irvine Patnick revealed that in one shameful episode a gang of Liverpool fans noticed that the blouse of a girl trampled to death had risen above her breasts.
"As a policeman struggled in vain to revive her, the mob jeered: 'Throw her up here and we will **** her'"
The story went on: "One furious policeman who witnessed Saturday's carnage stormed: 'As we struggled in appalling conditions to save lives, fans standing further up the terrace were openly urinating on us and the bodies of the dead."
A 'high-ranking' police officer was quoted as saying: "The fans were just acting like animals. My men faced a double hell - the disaster and the fury of the fans who attacked us."
Kenny Dalglish, then Liverpool manager, later addressed the story in his autobiography:
"When the Sun came out with the story about Liverpool fans being drunk and unruly underneath a headline 'The Truth,' the reaction on Merseyside was one of complete outrage. Newsagents stopped stocking the Sun. People wouldn't mention its name. They were burning copies of it. Anyone representing the Sun was abused.
"Sun reporters and photographers would lie, telling people they worked for the Liverpool Post and Echo. There was a lot of harassment of them because of what had been written. The Star had gone a bit strong as well, but they apologised the next day. They knew the story had no foundation. Kelvin MacKenzie, the Sun's editor, even called me up.
"'How can we correct the situation?" he said.
"'You know that big headline - 'The Truth',' I replied. 'All you have to do is put 'We lied' in the same size. Then you might be all right.'
"Mackenzie said: 'I cannot do that.'
"'Well,' I replied, 'I cannot help you then.'
"That was it. I put the phone down. Merseysiders were outraged by the Sun. A great many still are."
It was four years later that the then publicity-averse Kelvin MacKenzie went public for the first time about the calamitous decision to call Liverpudlians liars and thieves who preyed off the dying and dead.
"I regret Hillsborough," he said. "It was a fundamental mistake. The mistake was I believed what an MP said. It was a Tory MP. If he had not said it and the chief superintendent had not agreed with it, we would not have gone with it," he told the Commons national heritage committee in January, 1993.
However, the Hillsborough survivors' group felt his words amounted to a less than sufficient apology.
Owen Gibson @'The Guardian'
From the fevered imagination of exilestreet at 20:48