The Dirty Little Secrets of the UK Sun
Is it possible for the British tabloid media to sink any further into the quagmire of disreputable reporting where they like to swim?
While the depths of the Sun’s deceptions remain unplumbed, it is well established that reporters and editors of that tabloid of tabloids, in their zeal for the sensational over the sensible, are willing not only to create tabloid fiction out of fact, they’re also willing to engage in the kind of unethical practices that have populated prison cells.
Take for example the revelations published by the New York Times on March 18 that the UK Sun paid a Los Angeles private investigator $2,055 in 2016 for private information about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The source of that information was Daniel Portley-Hanks, a defrocked Los Angeles PI whose ethics were etched on the walls of a federal prison cell where he was sentenced to 16 months for his part in an extortion racket. According to the Times, Portley-Hanks’ “résumé includes several stints in prison and decades of clandestine work for a range of clients, including several British tabloids.”
Sun U.S. editor James Beal, however, did not hesitate to hand over money for the investigator’s illicitly obtained information and use it to publish a week-long stream of “exclusives” targeting the couple.
Portley-Hanks’ illegally extracted information included Ms. Markle’s home address, cell phone number, social security number, and other private information about her and her family—invading the family’s privacy and creating a potential security breach placing the safety of Markle and her family in jeopardy.
According to the Times article, Portley-Hanks stated in a sworn affidavit to Prince Harry’s lawyers: “I strongly believe that James Beal knew that what I was providing him was obtained illegally.”
Amid the controversy following the Oprah interview, the Times story made headlines around the world, once again focusing public attention on the grossly unethical practices of a tabloid media that shamelessly cultivates a well-fertilized garden of fake news and fraudulent reporting.
But did the Sun answer the issues of potential criminal complicity raised in the Times broadside? Not at all. Rather, they continued with business as usual, using the televised interview as a thinly veiled excuse to publish a salacious and false tabloid diatribe against Winfrey and the Church of Scientology.
The story was written by Sun Los Angeles correspondent Emma Parry, a shameless tabloid reporter. At the time the Sun paid Portley-Hanks, Parry was working in Los Angeles with Beal when Beal was apparently embroiled in the obtaining of the private and privileged information on Harry and Meghan.
For her baseless piece, Parry recruited a pair from her own stable of fake news purveyors: Jeffrey Augustine and Karen de la Carriere. A Los Angeles court judge years earlier had found them both to be, in his words, “untruthful...not credible...reckless” and guilty of “presenting testimony that was false, conflicting, exaggerated and evasive.”
Parry conveniently failed to mention as she quoted them in her story that the pair are also husband and wife—instead making it appear to readers that her “information” came from more than one source.
In her article, Parry provides a platform for Augustine to launch a bigoted attack on Oprah for her response to the allegations of racism made during the interview. That one of Augustine’s sources of income is peddling false allegations about the Church of Scientology to tabloid reporters apparently gave Parry no pause.
Parry recruited a pair from her own stable of fake news purveyors: Jeffrey Augustine and Karen de la Carriere. A Los Angeles court judge years earlier had found them both to be, in his words, “untruthful...not credible...reckless” and guilty of “presenting testimony that was false, conflicting, exaggerated and evasive.”
Source credibility is an issue in the pantheon of propaganda created by outlets such as the Sun. The public deserves to know the background of sources like Portley-Hanks, Augustine and de la Carriere.
And with the nation still reeling from the hideous attacks that left innocent Asian women shot to death in Atlanta earlier this month, might the public like to know that the Sun’s sources on Scientology were close friends of a man who bragged of his exploits as a sex tourist in Thailand, preying on underage Asian women? Parry was offered a photo of her sources’ sex-tourist pal, but never disclosed that relationship—and its stain on their credibility—to her readers.
This travesty is yet another example of the kind of moral values Sun editorial management is content with. First they abandoned responsibility. Then they abandoned truth. Now they have adopted the ethics of criminals. What is left but for responsible readers to abandon them.