Britain’s top-selling newspaper The Sun – a tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch – is standing by its claim that the “Queen backs Brexit”, despite press regulator IPSO ruling that the headline was “significantly misleading”.
Buckingham Palace had complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) over the March 9 front page, which quoted unnamed sources as saying Queen Elizabeth II had made her opposition to British membership of the European Union clear on at least two occasions in the past decade.
Tony Gallagher, Editor -in-Chief of the often-controversial daily newspaper, took to the radio on Wednesday morning to defend his decision.
“I don’t accept that we made an error at all,” he said. “We made a judgment that the headline was right and that it was backed up by the story.”
“We knew more than we put in the public domain,” he added. “The sources were so impeccable that we had no choice but to run the story in the way that we did.”
Britons go to the polls on June 23 in a referendum that will decide whether to remain in the European Union, and the suggestion that the monarch was in favour of leaving was perceived as being a potentially important factor in the debate.
“The headline contained a serious and unsupported allegation that the Queen had fundamentally breached her constitutional obligations in the context of a vitally important national debate,” says the IPSO ruling.
In her role in Britain’s constitutional monarchy, the 90-year-old Queen must remain politically neutral and has studiously avoided her views entering the public domain during her 64-year reign.
Buckingham Palace had argued that the headline gave the impression that the Queen backed the “leave” camp in the referendum debate, a view it described as misleading and distorted.
An unnamed source detailed an occasion when the Queen allegedly vented her anger with Brussels at the strongly pro-EU Nick Clegg during a lunch at Windsor Castle when he was Deputy Prime Minister.
The Sun said it was “nonsense” to say that the Queen always kept her thoughts to herself, citing some remarks about Chinese officials she described as “very rude” in a private conversation that was caught on camera last week.
The complaint was the first by a reigning monarch to the official press watchdog in the UK.
IPSO Chief Executive Matt Tee said that the “IPSO will continue to carry out our work without fear or favour and will continue to support those who feel wronged by the press, whoever they are”.
The newly formed body has come under much criticism since its inception for what critics say is its “lack of bite.”