The Sun reported that a 72-year-old grandmother punched and knocked out politician Mike Nesbitt. Now, The Sun is apologizing, saying it took the incident “out of context” and “the story is not true.”
The Sun article by John Jeffay falsely claimed that 72-year-old Marie Hyland, grandmother of pro boxer Paul Hyland, “landed a single blow” on Nesbitt after “he jokingly challenged her to a fight.” iMediaEthics found the original May 14 story via the Internet Archive.
The story was spurred by a photo circulating on social media. The photo showed the politician Nesbitt on the ground with Hyland standing over him. The Sun‘s article quoted Hyland as saying she “just clipped him with a quick right” and “he went down like a sack of spuds.”
Nesbitt resigned as the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party in March but is still a member of the Legislative Assembly.
After the apology was published, Nesbitt tweeted it with the comment, “interesting statement.”
Interesting statement from The Sun newspaperhttps://t.co/HhQeZGIlI2
— Mike Nesbitt (@mikenesbittni) June 3, 2017
The Sun‘s article went on to report Hyland said Nesbitt “was swaying about a bit” and stated:
“Marie had been saying how proud she was of her grandson, the Irish super bantamweight boxing champ Paul Hyland. She said: He challenged me to a boxing match. I knew he was only messing.
“He said, I’ll box you. I knew he was joking, but he picked on the wrong girl. She said Nesbitt had been the life and soul of the party, joining in with a sing-song in the bar at the hotel, across the road from Parliament Buildings.”
The Sun reported that Nesbitt, when asked about the photo, only said “things happened.” On the other hand, The Irish News reported May 15 that Hyland said the photos were “horseplay” and “a joke.” Hyland added that Nesbitt’s friend had them pose for the photos.
iMediaEthics has written to Nesbitt to ask what really happened at the hotel and if he complained to The Sun or the press regulator over the article, prompting the apology. We’ve also contacted The Sun to ask what went wrong.
The full June 2 Sun apology reads:
“We published a story “One Punch Wonder, Gran, 72 reveals she was the one who knocked out top MP after picture of him lying face down on hotel floor left the internet baffled” (14 November 2017).
“This suggested that the Ulster Unionist politician, Mike Nesbitt, had been intoxicated and had been unable to get back on his feet after being punched by a 72 year old grandmother.
We now accept that this story is not true and what had been no more than sociable banter between those present, had been taken out of context.
We apologise to Mr Nesbitt.”