A Scottish Sunday paper has revealed it refused to publish details of Gordon Brown’s son’s illness out of respect for his family’s privacy despite having the story weeks before the nationals.
Appearing before the Leveson Inquiry into press standards last week, the former Prime Minister criticised The Sun for revealing in 2006 that his son Fraser had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.
Dundee-based title the Sunday Post has now revealed that it knew about Fraser’s condition weeks before the story was published in the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid.
In its political column Holyrood Diary, the paper said it contacted the Brown family at the time, but decided not to publish details of the illness when they did not want to comment on it.
The Post’s article said: “At the Leveson Inquiry last week, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown attacked News International newspapers for publishing details of his young son’s illness.
“The Sunday Post heard about the baby’s condition (cystic fibrosis) weeks before they were published in The Sun.
“We contacted the Browns and they told us they didn’t want to comment. We respected their privacy, and didn’t print the story. Remember that not all newspapers are the same.”
The Post’d disclosures give weight to Mr Brown’s claims that he had never given newspapers permission to use the story.
In his inquiry evidence, Mr Brown said he had not given The Sun permission to publish details of his son’s illness, contradicting the evidence of the paper’s former editor Rebekah Brooks.
He said the National Health Service in Fife had apologised to him because they believed it was likely the information about the condition had been leaked by a member of staff which had allowed The Sun to find out about it.
Mr Brown told the Inquiry: “I ask you: if any mother or any father was presented with a choice as to whether a four-month old son’s medical condition, your child’s medical condition, should be broadcast on the front page of a tabloid newspaper and you had a choice in this matter – I don’t think there’s any parent in the land would have made the choice that we are told we made, to give explicit permission for that to happen.”
However when Mrs Brooks was questioned at the inquiry last month about whether the Browns had given their express agreement to publish the story about Fraser, she said: “Absolutely”.
She added: “If the Browns had asked me not to run it, I wouldn’t have done. There are many examples where – very tragic situations in people’s lives where people have asked me not to run the story and I haven’t and I wouldn’t have done, and not only was I – they gave me permission to run it; it is the only way we would have put that in the public domain.”