Mirror attack on Bush sparks backlash in US

The Daily Mirror’s 4 July Bush-bashing front page made headlines in the US and there were even suggestions of a possible advertising boycott by American companies.

The New York Post – owned by Rupert Murdoch – reproduced the Mirror’s front page under the headline, "Shareholders Gag at US-hating Rag". The Post said that the story provoked cries of outrage.

The backlash, the Post said, was particularly strong from US shareholders in Trinity Mirror, which publishes the Mirror.

They include several well-known financial houses, including Fidelity, a mutual fund giant, which owns 14 per cent of the company’s stock, the Capital Group (13 per cent) and Tweedy Browne (4 per cent).

"Totally outrageous" was the reported reaction of Tom Shrager, managing director of Tweedy Browne. Top executives of the three financial houses were reported to have protested to Trinity Mirror chief executive Philip Graf.

According to the Post, Shrager claimed Trinity Mirror’s senior management were equally opposed to the story, written by John Pilger, but felt it was an "editorial decision" .

"They agreed with me that the article was totally outrageous," said Shrager.

The Pilger article was headlined "The Rogue State" and was straplined "America’s bid to control the world". Its front page said Bush’s policy of bomb first and find out later had killed double the number of civilians who died on September 11.

Shrager said: "I believe strongly in freedom of the press – but that right comes with a certain level of responsibility to be fair. The Mirror wasn’t fair and it wasn’t accurate." The Mirror gave a prompt answer. On Tuesday, its lead story and leader accused Britain of bowing to the US over arms sales to Israel.

Editor Piers Morgan said: "We will continue to use John Pilger’s brilliant reporting on the war on terror as I believe he is expressing a view shared by many people in this country. But it is important to remember that his argument is not with the American people; it is with the current American administration.’

A Trinity Mirror spokeswoman told Press Gazette: "As a company, we encourage two-way communication with both our institutional and private investors. The chief executive and finance director meet and talk regularly with analysts and institutional shareholders.

"Naturally the company responds to all queries and takes any comments on board, but we would not discuss the contents of a particular conversation."

By Jeffrey Blyth in New York and Jean Morgan

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