Guardian Retracts Report Sun Used Brown’s Medical Records; Apologizes

The Guardian splashed its July 12 report that remaining News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). tabloid the Sun obtained illegal access to Gordon Brown’s family medical records across the front page but today’s admission that it was wrong is well inside the paper — the corrections column on page 36, to be exact. The report helped fan the flames against News Corp, the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks, and got tremendous attention in Parliament during open discussions as an example of why the company and its execs weren’t “fit and proper” to run BSkyB (NYSE: BSY). We picked it up; as did others.

Interest was heightened by the role of Brooks, who was Sun editor at the time, as the paper’s emissary to the Browns — and the person who refused to refrain from publishing the story.

The July 12 stories also included well-documented allegations of financial incursions by the Sunday Times that remain standing. The Sun, however, quickly pushed back on suggestions it breached the Data Privacy Act by gaining access to private medical records for its scoop that Gordon Brown’s son had cystic fibrosis. The paper’s actual source was the father of another CF patient who wanted the Browns’ situation known to draw attention to the disease. He signed a statement to that effect and, still unidentified, did a video for the Sun, both used to wrest the correction and apology from Guardian.

It almost could be lost in the flood of coverage online, particularly appearing the same day that Brooks resigned, but it is getting attention from the BBC and other outlets. The correction is appended to those Guardian stories, along with a note that changes have been to the text accordingly.

At one point in the early coverage of what became known as Watergate, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward get a key story wrong. Very wrong. It almost torpedoed them — and it became a dramatic moment for the movie All The President’s Men spotlighting their unlikely role in the downfall of a sitting president. This shouldn’t undermine the rest of the Guardian‘s coverage but it’s a reminder of the missteps that can be made.

The full text of the correction:

Articles in the Guardian of Tuesday 12 July incorrectly reported that the Sun newspaper had obtained information on the medical condition of Gordon Brown’s son from his medical records. In fact the information came from a different source and the Guardian apologises for its error (The Brown files: How Murdoch papers targeted ex-PM’s family, 12 July, page 1; When Brown decided that the Sun was out to destroy him politically, 12 July, page 2).

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