Kelvin MacKenzie has been threatened with legal action following his claim that The Sun’s infamous 1989 front page story about the Hillsborough disaster came from a ‘Liverpool news agency and Liverpool journalists”.
MacKenzie, the paper’s then editor, made the remark during a heated exchange with Labour MP Chris Bryant on the BBC’s Daily Politics show yesterday, where he also claimed that ‘every single newspaper carried that story”.
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The Sun story – headlined ‘The Truth’- was printed four days after the tragedy and quoted police sources claiming it was the result of drunkenness among Liverpool fans, the sources claims fans pick pocketed victims, urinated on police and assaulted officers attempting to help the injured.
‘The story came from a Liverpool news agency and Liverpool journalists,’MacKenzie claimed yesterday. “Every single newspaper carried that story.”
2pm UPDATE: MacKenzie has now contacted the BBC to retract his statement: “Having just checked with the Sun’s news editor at the time, it is clear that the story didn’t come from the Liverpool agencies. I apologise for getting it wrong but it was 21 years ago.”
Chris Johnson, editor of the Liverpool-based Mercury news agency, said MacKenzie’s claims were ‘ludicrous”.
He told the Liverpool Echo: ‘You put a rat in a corner and it bites at the first thing it can find.
‘This isn’t the first time MacKenzie has said this, he tried it before in 2007 – he is trying to lay a false trail and turn the tables back on Liverpool for his very sloppy piece of journalism.
‘Our lawyers have written to MacKenzie and demanded he retract this statement.”
The Echo reports that Johnson was news editor of the Mercury agency in 1989 when 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives watching the FA Cup tie in Sheffield and that ‘from this position he would have seen all the stories written by his journalists and sent to the national press.
‘I’d bet my life that story didn’t come from Liverpool, in the strongest terms, it was not something originated in this city,’added Johnson.
MacKenzie went on to say that if he could revisit the paper’s Hillsborough coverage he would done it ‘in a different way”.
‘I’d do it in the way that the other newspapers did,’he said, ‘which was they basically ran the story and said ‘big fury over’, and I wish I’d done that.”