David Yelland admits he was drunk when Sun ran exposes on Lenny Henry, Ian Botham and Sophie Rhys-Jones

David Yelland, former editor of The Sun, spoke to the London Evening Standard today on his time as a Murdoch editor, alcoholism nearly killing him and the launch of his new book.

Yelland confessed to being drunk for most of the five years he edited The Sun.

He admitted to drinking beer and wine in his office from the early afternoon onwards, adding “people around me were starting to say I had a problem, although I kept it hidden from them”.

He spoke of being more liberal with his decisions after he had been drinking, and said he often changed leads at the last minute.

“I would agonise about things. Often I would go with the flow with first edition and do what was expected. Then I’d go out and have a few drinks and change the leader.”

While editor, he decided to run stories that he now deeply regrets: exposes about Lenny Henry and Ian Botham and the topless pictures of Sophie Rhys-Jones.

His drinking was kept secret for a long time, and went unnoticed by many. Yelland said he was “very protected” at The Sun. “I had a chauffer-driven car, an unlimited expenses account, free alcohol at the office and everywhere else I went.”

Yelland left The Sun in 2003, shortly before divorcing his wife of seven years, they married while Yelland was deputy editor of the New York Post.

Speaking about his former boss Rupert Murdoch, Yelland said he had “completely changed my life and dealt with me at every stage in my career with absolute grace”. He described his old boss as “a closet liberal” which he manages to hide well.

“All Murdoch editors, what they do is this: they go on a journey where they end up agreeing with everything Rupert says. But you don’t admit to yourself that you’re being influenced.

“Most Murdoch editors wake up in the morning, switch on the radio, hear that something has happened and think, What would Rupert think about this?’ It’s like a mantra inside your head. It’s like a prism. You look at the world through Rupert’s eyes.”

Yelland declined to comment on if he would ever return to newspapers, but admitted that he could not have done the job sober.

“I was paid to be angry. It was the worst job for an alcoholic. The difference between me and the people I was condemning was nothing. Once you realise that, it’s very difficult to carry on editing.”

Yelland is now a partner in PR firm Brunswick.



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