Actor Steve Coogan is no friend of the Daily Mail. His opinion of the British press isn’t much higher, however the star of Philomena has launched perhaps his most pointed attack to date on the Kensington-based newspaper and its "sociopathic" editor Paul Dacre.
Speaking to Total Politics Magazine, the comedian set about Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Mail Online, suggesting that the web arm of the paper is popular because it is akin to paedophilia.
"Well, you know, paedophilia is pretty popular too," he said when asked about the site’s huge traffic. "‘Mailbait’... the website that has all the photographs about 12 and 14 year old girls and talks about their bras and how fast they growing up and all the rest of it, which is on the Mail Online, and clearly has an appeal that goes beyond just the curious. That's hugely popular and all for the wrong reasons. It's at best creepy and at worst sinister."
When asked why the print edition, Britain’s biggest selling daily, had such a wide readership, Coogan said that popularity was not a defence for its publishing practices. "It is popular, but things that play on people's prejudices are very popular," he told the magazine.
"During Weimar Germany people pointing the fingers at the Jewish community – that was very popular, it was a convenient scapegoat. Interestingly of course the Daily Mail played on people's insecurity in the 1930s.
"There was an influx of Jewish refugees from Germany and the old Lord Rothermere was an arch supporter of Adolf Hitler. As a newspaper it panders to people's worst prejudices and people like to have their prejudices reinforced and that's what the Daily Mail does. The notion that purely by definition of its popularity its beyond reproach is a nonsense."
The 48-year-old actor, who has been a fierce proponent for press reform, was equally scathing about the Mail’s editor Paul Dacre, who he said he would be happy to debate, as well as Rupert Murdoch, the proprietor of News International, which owns The Sun and The Times.
“It's a kind of almost wilful sociopathic arrogance, Paul Dacre being the most obvious example,” said the Alan Partridge star. “I think more and more these days with regards to Dacre it's like shooting fish in a barrel.
"The one thing I would say in his favour, that I think elevates him in some ways, or depending on your point of view differentiates him, from Rupert Murdoch is I think Rupert Murdoch is all about business, it’s about the bottom line, it’s about shifting units and building his empire, unimpeded by any sort of regulation whatsoever.
"Morality and ethics are purely an academic concept to him. He is an amoral propagator of his own empire. Paul Dacre on the other hand, I think he genuinely believes all the xenophobic crap that he writes in his newspaper and I'll let him have that."
Read the full interview here.