Kelvin MacKenzie And The Sun Still Not Forgiven After Hillsborough Inquest Verdict

Sun journalists were also barred from a press conference.

26/04/2016 13:39 | Updated 27 April 2016

SEE ALSO: The Sun relegates Hillsborough to page 8, outrage ensues 

Former Liverpool players have joined supporters of the team in reigniting calls for a boycott the Sun newspaper, after the Hillsborough disaster inquest jury ruled that all 96 fans were unlawfully killed.

Four days after the Hillsborough disaster, The Sun ran a front page with the headline 'THE TRUTH' citing fans' hooliganism as a contributing factor in the 96 deaths.

The paper claimed Liverpool fans stole from victims, urinated on police officers and blocked rescue efforts.

The Sun
The Sun front page from 19 April 1989.

Ex-Liverpool striker Stan Collymore called for the publication to be shut down in the wake of the verdict on Tuesday, which also exonerated the behaviour of football fans in the 1989 disaster.

Another former Liverpool forward, John Aldridge, who was on the pitch on the day of the tragedy, called Kelvin MacKenzie, the editor of the Sun in 1989, a "complete and utter disgrace to humanity".

Fifteen years later the tabloid apologised "without reservation" in a full-page leader for "the most terrible mistake in its history".

In 2012 The Sun lead with a front page saying "we are profoundly sorry for false reports".

The Sun
The Sun front page from 13 September 2013

An inquest jury ruled today, 27 years after the disaster, that every death was unlawful and exonerated all the fans present.

Despite the passing of nearly three decades, the ruling has laid bare how little the animosity of Liverpool fans towards the Sun has faded.

MacKenzie had reportedly originally gone with the headline 'YOU SCUM' before changing his mind.

Immediately after the edition hit the shops, newsagents and readers alike boycotted the paper, a tradition that continues today.

In 1993 MacKenzie told House of Commons National Heritage Select Committee: "I regret Hillsborough. 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 (David Duckenfield) had not agreed with it, we would not have gone with it."

In 2006 he backtracked and claimed has had only apologised under duress from The Sun's owner, Rupert Murdoch.

He said: "I was not sorry then and I'm not sorry now."

According to the Independent, MacKenzie told a business lunch in Newcastle:

"There was a surge of Liverpool fans who had been drinking and that is what caused the disaster. The only thing different we did was put it under the headline 'The Truth'. I went on [BBC Radio 4's] World at One the next day and apologised. I only did that because Rupert Murdoch told me to. I wasn't sorry then and I'm not sorry now because we told the truth."

The Sun's political editor at the time of the Hillsborough disaster on Tuesday defended his role in the paper's infamous 1989 front page.

Trevor Kavanagh, now a columnist at the Rupert Murdoch-owned paper, blamed police and Downing Street for misleading the paper's editors.

He also supported his old boss, MacKenzie: "I’m not sorry at all," Kavanagh told the Guardian. "I didn’t have any involvement at all apart from to say that Downing Street had been told [the same thing]…"

"I don’t think Kelvin committed any crime and he has made his position abundantly clear many times. We have apologised many times and tried repeatedly to make amends."

MacKenzie himself reportedly told ITV News today that it was an "Absolute disgrace what police have done in South Yorkshire these last 27 years.

"I feel desperate for the families and the people and I also feel in some strange way I got caught up in it."

Sun journalists were also barred from a press conference held by some of the victims' families after today's inquest ruling.

Before the event began, organisers checked to see there were no reporters from the tabloid paper present. 

A sign was also fixed to the door, reading: "NO ENTRY TO SUN JOURNALISTS". 

MacKenzie issued a statement on 2012, once again appearing to reverse his stance.

He said: "Today I offer my profuse apologies to the people of Liverpool for that headline. I too was totally misled.

"Twenty three years ago I was handed a piece of copy from a reputable news agency in Sheffield [White's] in which a senior police officer and a senior local MP (Sheffield Hallam MP Irvine Patnick) were making serious allegations against fans in the stadium.

"I had absolutely no reason to believe that these authority figures would lie and deceive over such a disaster. As the Prime Minister has made clear these allegations were wholly untrue and were part of a concerted plot by police officers to discredit the supporters thereby shifting the blame for the disaster from themselves.

"It has taken more than two decades, 400,000 documents and a two-year inquiry to discover to my horror that it would have been far more accurate had I written the headline 'The Lies' rather than 'The Truth'. I published in good faith and I am sorry that it was so wrong."

Today, the Sun and its Murdoch-owned stablemate, the Times, sparked anger by not mentioning the Hillsborough inquest on their front pages.

The Sun’s decision not to publish any detail of the inquest on its front page, in contrast to almost every other national newspaper, prompted widespread dismay.

The Times did put out a second edition that replaced the picture with one showing the relatives of the dead celebrating the new verdicts.

This followed the online backlash against the decision, including a tweet by one of its own sports journalists, Liverpudlian football writer Tony Barrett.

The Sun’s and The Times’ decision not to put it on the front page contrasts with every other national front page on Wednesday, which mention the verdicts.

The tabloid ran a leader on page 10, in which it said: “We apologised prominently 12 years ago, again four years ago on the front page and do so unreservedly again now.

“Further, we pay tribute to the admirable tenacity of the friends and relatives over so many years on behalf of the 96 who died.”

The Sun and The Times both devote double-page spreads to the inquest.

Lewis Whyld/PA Archive
Kelvin MacKenzie, the editor of the Sun in 1989, was called a "complete and utter disgrace to humanity" by former Liverpool striker John Aldridge.

Yesterday, the families and friends of victims of Liverpool supporters killed in then disaster cheered jurors from court, after they concluded the 96 fans had been unlawfully killed.

There were shouts of “God bless the jury” as the conclusions into Britain’s worst sporting disaster were read out in court. They found it was unlawful killing by a 7-2 majority.

The verdicts were greeted with sobbing and cheers at the hearing in Warrington.

Supporters then gathered outside to sing an impromptu rendition of Liverpool anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

Within minutes of the findings being released, the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed it would begin the process of formally considering criminal charges over the disaster.

The jury also ruled that fan behaviour did not cause or contribute to the tragedy.

News UK were contacted for comment.

Bruce Grobbelaar was in goal when the Hillsborough disaster happened. Here he remembers the day.

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