Counsel for the Leveson Inquiry Robert Jay QC has disputed that he said the News of the World was 'nothing but smut'during a conversation with former chief reporter for the paper Neville Thurlbeck.
The conversation was reported on Thurlbeck's blog last week and led to further reports on www.pressgazette.co.uk and later in The Times.
Jay said: 'Mr Thurlbeck's recollection is incorrect. The belief attributed to me is not one that I hold."
Jay said that he met Thurlbeck before he appeared at the inquiry on 12 December to discuss lines of questioning.
He said that he told Thurlbeck he was going to ask him about a 1998 story – about a couple who ran a guesthouse which offered 'extra services'.
Jay: 'He stated he did not wish to discuss that storyâ€¦because he had been exonerated by the PCCâ€¦
'I went on to say that in my view the story was smut, I might have said that it was nothing but smut."
Jay said that it was he was referring to just that story, rather than the whole output of the News of the World.
He added that he may also have said that he himself did not read the News of the World and that he read The Economist.
Asked for his response to the Jay statement, Thurlbeck said: "I am pleased to hear Mr Jay does not hold the belief that the News of the World was, 'nothing but smut' and that he was referring only to one particular article. I accept the integrity of what he says as I hope he does when I say this was not the impression I was left with.
"Mr Jay is clearly a very able man. But no one is immune from making ambiguous comments."