News International, the Rupert Murdoch-controlled publisher of U.K. papers The Times, The Sun and (until Sunday) News of the World, is fighting over the facts with The Guardian about how The Sun discovered that former Prime Minister Gordon Brown's newborn son had cystic fibrosis. Nicola Surgeon, the Scottish health secretary which overseas the National Health Service hospital in Edinburgh where Brown's son was born, told The Guardian Tuesday night that the National Health Services "is prepared to launch an investigation into how the medical records were leaked to the media." This would be the third national investigation into News International, a hat trick for Rebekah Brooks (shown above), who was editor of The Sun at the time and now the top executive at News International.
The day's back-and-forth started with Brown's morning interview with the BBC, in which he described how a phone call from Brooks brought him and his wife "to tears" when Brooks told them that The Sun was running an article about his son Fraser's health. Unsure how The Sun obtained the information, Brown said on Tuesday, "I can't think of any way that the medical condition of a child can be put into the public domain legitimately unless the doctor makes a public statement or the family make a statement."
Brooks is also a target in an investigation into reports of phone hacking and bribing police at Murdoch's newspapers. Naturally, when The Guardian reported Monday that journalists across News International had targeted Brown in such probes, that call from Rebekah Brooks to the former prime minister looked very suspicious. News International responded Tuesday afternoon with a statement denying they had illegally accessed confidential medical records:
The story The Sun ran about their son originated from a member of the public whose family has also experienced cystic fibrosis. He came to The Sun with this information voluntarily because he wanted to highlight the cause of those afflicted by the disease."
Further down, the statement also claims credit for the extra attention directed at the condition itself:
The publication of the story and the further responsible, sympathetic and informative coverage The Sun continued to give to the disease resulted in renewed interest for those affected by it. Donations to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust nearly doubled over the next year.
Neither The Guardian nor British officials seem particularly satisfied with this explanation. A Guardian spokesperson issued a statement reiterating the newspaper's claims.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.