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Wednesday, March 15, 2006 

Ashley Cole libel: Daily Star apologises.

Elsewhere in the Street of Shame, the Daily Star has done what both the newspapers being sued by Ashley Cole and Masterstepz have refused to do; "Dirty" Desmond's celebrity rag has made a grovelling apology.

The Daily Star has today printed a grovelling apology to the Arsenal and England footballer Ashley Cole following a story last month in which it named him as one of three men allegedly involved in a homosexual orgy.

In its apology, the paper admitted it "got it wrong" with its story of February 21, which was headlined "Gay footie stars named on the net" and identified Cole as the footballer at the centre of claims about a homosexual threesome.

"The Daily Star entirely accepts that Ashley Cole was not involved in any way in this kind of conduct," the apology read. "The stories about him were entirely without foundation. We sincerely apologise to Ashley for the distress which he suffered."

The paper finished its apology by wishing the footballer a speedy recovery from his current injury and extending "best wishes" to him and his fiancee, Cheryl Tweedy, for their wedding later this year.

It seems that the Daily Star was probably about to become the latest newspaper to be issued with a writ courtesy of Cole's solicitors, and instead have printed the correction to head it off. Meanwhile though, News International seems to be indulging in what can only be described as despicable grandstanding against the website which revealed what Murdoch's rags only alluded to:

The paper's apology comes on the heels of warnings against the gay news website PinkNews.co.uk from the News of the World that it could be sued over its part in the legal wrangle.

The News of the World this week warned PinkNews that the newspaper and its stablemate the Sun were reserving their rights to issue proceedings against it under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978.

The gay news website suggested the footballer Ashley Cole was the alleged subject of a News of the World story.

Cole has taken action over a series of stories in the two papers between February 12 and 19 claiming two unnamed Premiership footballers had taken part in "perverted" and "debauched romps" with a "well known DJ" after internet sites and chat rooms named him as one of the footballers in the story.

PinkNews.co.uk discussed the News of the World story and internet rumours, speculating on the identity of the individuals concerned.

It reproduced a pixelated version of a photograph used by the News of the World that claimed to be of a Premiership footballer and a well-known music industry figure, comparing it with a photograph showing Cole and Ian Thompson, better known as the Choice FM DJ Masterstepz, at a party.

Thompson has since joined Cole in taking legal action against the Sun and the News of the World.

The case is distinctive because neither man has been named by the newspapers, but their lawyers claim the way the stories were written led to their identification.

The managing editor of the Daily Star, Paul Ashford, had declined to comment about his newspaper's apology at the time of publication.

The News International position is disgraceful because it knew full well that such stories which were advertised on national television before publication would result in widespread speculation. Indeed, why else would they publish such lurid tales if they thought no one would be interested? It seems to consider that its stories and journalists are blameless when they didn't actually name the participators in what they called "perverted" and "debauched" acts, despite including a badly censored picture of the two that it cowardly didn't name. Private Eye today seems to think it unlikely that the case will reach court, especially seeing as there are a number of other cases pending against News International involving England footballers, and in the News of the Screws case, the manager. Perhaps the Sun and NotW are preparing to pay damages, and are threatening PinkNews in order to recoup some of their loses.

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