UK Sun's Jeremy Corbyn Privy Council story 'Significantly Misleading' - iMediaEthics

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A January Sun front page.

The UK Sun was instructed by the nation’s press regulator to tell readers on its front page that it messed up on a story about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn joining the Privy Council to get money, the Independent reported.

While the Sun did as instructed, the Independent noted the correction was “buried” on the bottom corner of the cover.

Corbyn didn’t complain about the article, but the Independent Press Standards Organisation took up a former journalist’s complaint that the article was misleading, inaccurate, and contained  a doctored photograph of Corbyn as a jester.

The Sept. 15 front-page Sun story was headlined “Labour hypocrite: Leftie who hates the Royals WILL kiss Queen’s hand to grab £6.2m.”

IPSO said the newspaper must  publish on it front page “a reference to the adjudication” and then the full ruling had to be published somewhere in the first four pages. See below the front-page reference the Sun used in the bottom left corner.

iMediaEthics circled the reference to the IPSO complaint on the Sun's front page. (Credit: Sun via the Independent)

iMediaEthics circled the reference to the IPSO complaint on the Sun‘s front page. (Credit: Sun via the Independent)

The newspaper stood by its article “as legitimate speculation based on accurate information” including that the only way Corbyn could have gotten the money for his party was by joining the Privy Council. It also argued the doctored photo was clearly Photoshopped and therefore not deceptive. IPSO agreed about the doctored photo.

The Sun acknowledged that it should have made it clearer that Corbyn only would have gotten about 10% of the money in question. The Sun said it would run a clarification that read

“In an article of 15th September, headlined ‘Court Jezter’, we said that Jeremy Corbyn decided to join the Privy Council in order to get his hands on Short Money, the fund (in total amounting to £6.2 million) provided by the State for the Opposition. This was based on our argument that his Privy Council membership was integral to his role as Leader of the Opposition. We are happy to make clear that only £700k of Short Money goes directly to the Office of the Leader, with the remainder paying for other aspects of the official opposition, including research and the Whips’ Office. The formal criteria for Short Money does not explicitly include reference to membership of the Privy Council at all. Some experts have said that Corbyn’s non membership would have had no impact on Labour’s receipt of the money.”

IPSO ruled that it was OK for the newspaper to speculate about why Corbyn joined the council and what would have happened if he hadn’t. However, the newspaper’s article didn’t clearly say it was speculation, instead indicating the Sun‘s speculation was fact.

The Sun‘s article said Corbyn joined the council because it was “the only way … [he] could secure his position as the official Leader of the Opposition – with all the perks that go with it” and the headline said definitively Corbyn “WILL kiss Queen’s hand to grab £6.2m,” IPSO pointed out.

“This amounted to a factual claim that the party’s receipt of Short money was conditional on Privy Council membership,” IPSO explained. “While the article included some explanation of the link the newspaper had drawn between the two – including the quotation from the QC – it did not acknowledge that Short money is not formally conditional on Privy Council membership. The presentation of the claims in this form, without clarifying information, constituted a failure to take care not to publish misleading information.”

As such,  the article was “significantly misleading” and the Sun‘s clarification offer was too late to properly rectify the matter, IPSO decided.

iMediaEthics has written to the Sun for comment.


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UK Sun’s Jeremy Corbyn Privy Council story ‘Significantly Misleading’

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