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Pressure grows on ITV and others to drop MacKenzie

Earlier in the week ITV sent a standard reply to questions about their use of Kelvin MacKenzie on This Morning. MacKenzie was the editor responsible for the front page lies under the headline “The Truth” in the Sun in 1989.

On receipt of that reply a couple more emails went out, this time including some of ITV’s senior executives in the distribution *. 48 hours later and we’re still waiting for even the decency of even an acknowledgement from just one of those people.

The reply ITV sent to our original email, the one which included some of the words used in Parliament on Monday night to explain the damage MacKenzie’s actions had done to the families of the victims and also to the survivors was very much a standard reply with wording as uncaring and unfeeling as the verse in a cheap shop Christmas card.

Adam Vandermark said: “Kelvin MacKenzie is one of a number of commentators featured on This Morning whose views can provoke a wide range of opinions.

 “We recognise that the Hillsborough tragedy remains a sensitive and emotive issue for many.  Our sympathies are with the families of the victims and all of those who continue to be affected by the tragedy and we would always keep that in mind should Mr Mackenzie be asked to comment on any issues surrounding it.”

Our initial response to this pointed out that it “really doesn’t answer the question: ‘Why on earth would ITV think its viewers would want to listen to MacKenzie’s opinions?’”

We also suggested that we could ask others to come up with ideas for some other “commentators” equally capable of “provoking a wide range of opinions” – maybe there’s a mass murderer who could contribute by video link and keep those viewing figures high.

One very important point to remember is that what Kelvin MacKenzie oversaw the printing of on the front page of that issue of The Sun wasn’t his opinion. It was a pack of outright lies. Had he named the people he was falsely accusing of despicable acts, rather than hiding behind the words “some supporters”, he would have faced court action some time ago, as he and his paper did on other occasions when they saw fit to print baseless lies – designed to harm people – on their front pages.

It may well be possible that the people earning the big money at ITV are too out of touch to realise what happened at Hillsborough and what MacKenzie said happened. With that in mind I picked a number of extracts of stories told about the day.

Please note – these are harrowing stories and you may wish to avoid reading them.

The first extract is from a story by Tony Evans of The Times that was first published in 2009.

“In 1989, with my mate – also called Tony – I came down the hill laughing and approached the crowd outside Hillsborough with confidence.

There were a lot of people eager to get into the game. Kick-off was looming and agitation was growing. But we worked the crowd, exploiting its pressing and ebbing, to gain yards. We had experience in this sort of thing – veterans in big crowds since junior school. We had been caught up in this sort of congestion countless times throughout the years, so we were soon at the turnstiles.

“Then the first unusual thing happened. An exit gate suddenly opened and there we were, inside the ground, our tickets redundant. ‘See you later,’ I said. ‘Tomorrow,’ he replied. Then he walked down the tunnel.

“His next words to me came some 36 hours later: ‘Have you ever felt someone’s ribs breaking under your feet?’”

This is an extract from an interview Neil Fitzmaurice did with the Daily Mirror ahead of the screening of an episode of ‘Mobile’ (an ITV drama) in which he played a survivor of Hillsborough. This extract is him talking about his own experiences that day:


“Dead bodies popped up like corks from a bottle each time the crowd surged forward trying to get off the terrace and on to the pitch. It became a battle for survival.

“I saw people clambering over others as if they were body surfing, desperately trying to get over the chicken wire fence that was penning us in, but the police were forcing them back. They thought it was crowd trouble. They didn’t realise what was going on.

“People were biting each other, to let the person next to them know they were alive. You could tell some people had given up the fight, you could see it in their eyes. They simply couldn’t breathe and died where they stood.”

With the help of a friend, Neil had clambered over bodies, dragging the man next to them with him.

He says: “We managed to get to a barrier and climbed over. It was utter confusion, mass hysteria.

“I shouted at the man to climb over the barrier but when I let go of his hand he fell to the floor. He was already dead.”

In many ways these stories have been toned down, as horrific as they sound. We can all imagine how bad it must have been to be one of the people who now have those stories to tell – but our imagination of those experiences can’t even come close to the reality.

And so, a few days after living through that hell, with feelings of guilt and confusion growing and tied in with the grief for many of the survivors at not just going through that horror but also losing their loved ones, the paper arrived. The Sun was still quite popular on Merseyside at the time, many of the bereaved and hurt will have had a copy come through their front doors early morning after another sleepless night.

This is what they read:

“Drunken Liverpool fans viciously attacked rescue workers as they tried to revive victims of the Hillsborough soccer disaster, it was revealed last night.

“Police officers, firemen and ambulance crew were punched, kicked and urinated upon by a hooligan element in the crowd.

“Some thugs rifled the pockets of injured fans as they were stretched out unconscious on the pitch.

“In one shameful episode, a gang of Liverpool fans noticed the blouse of a girl trampled to death in the crush had risen above her breasts.

“As a policeman struggled in vain to revive her, they jeered: ‘Throw her up here and we will **** her.’”

Survivors still battered bruised, physically and mentally, had to read that.

Bereaved families still waiting to bury their loved ones had to read that.

MacKenzie put it on the front of his paper and thought nothing of it. In 2006 he was quoted as saying this about the lies:

“All I did wrong there was tell the truth. There was a surge of Liverpool fans who had been drinking and that is what caused the disaster. The only thing different we did was put it under the headline “The Truth”. I went on The World at One the next day and apologised. I only did that because Rupert Murdoch told me to. I wasn’t sorry then and I’m not sorry now because we told the truth.”

This isn’t an opinion, this is a lie.

He knows what the Taylor report says yet chooses to continue peddling the lies. Why do ITV still feel he’s worth using?

We suggested this to ITV: “If ITV can’t do the right thing, can’t do what any half-decent individual with an ounce of dignity would do, perhaps it’s time to hit ITV where it hurts ITV. If ITV are happy to be associated with this kind of individual are all of its This Morning advertisers, presenters and guests happy too?

“If Adam Vandermark’s ignorant, crass and insensitive opinion on the use of Kelvin MacKenzie is representative of ITV as a whole then perhaps it’s time ITV’s ability to broadcast in its current form is taken up with the appropriate authorities. If not, perhaps Mr Vandermark’s position as editor of that programme is in need of urgent review.”

ITV, the BBC and the Daily Mail all use Kelvin MacKenzie and all justify it, when they can be bothered to do so, with similar excuses. This continues to happen despite many of the staff at those organisations making their revulsion at the use of the man known to their bosses.

By continuing to employ him and to downplay the significance of his appearances they essentially align themselves with the members of the establishment who have overseen what amounts to a cover-up for 22 years. Their use of the man suggests they condone his actions from 1989 and those comments from 2006.

Some individuals have already started contacting ITV sponsors and advertisers.

A retired judge, perhaps sensing that his own recommendations in a report on football crowds are said by some to have contributed in some ways to the disaster, caused much anger yesterday after his letter to The Times was published. The letter, from Sir Oliver Popplewell (whose granddaughter played the part of Susan Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia), was widely condemned. The judge was later said to have refused to come out of hiding and explain why he felt it was right, or a good time, to tell families to “move on” from the tragedy.

The letter was raised in the Commons when MP Maria Eagle asked the leader of the house, Sir George Young, about the remarks: “Following the disgraceful comments yesterday of Sir Oliver Popplewell, who accused the families of harbouring conspiracy theories, will he ask the home secretary to join members of these benches in unreservedly condemning these crass and insensitive comments.”

In response Sir George condemned the comments and any other of a similar nature: “I would condemn any insensitive comments, particularly at this moment in time. I think the whole House is united in urging everyone to work constructively with the independent panel so the public can finally learn the truth.”

Meanwhile 52 MPs signed an early day motion called by St Helens North MP Dave Watts. The motion says:

That this House supports David Hawkins’ e-petition which calls on The Sun newspaper to provide full disclosure of all its records including the sources of information and documents which relate to The Truth story published on 19th April 1989; calls on Kelvin MacKenzie to make a full and unreserved apology for this untrue story which his newspaper published; and calls on all media outlets to refuse to engage him professionally until he has done so.

Those media outlets continue to send out their standard, thoughtless, refusals to act appropriately over MacKenzie.

The e-petition can be found here – http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/19350 – and already has over 30,000 signatures on it. (Remember after signing to check your email inbox and spam/junk folder for an email containing a link to confirm your signature. If you don’t click this link your signature won’t be counted. )

In another move adding to the pressure on Kelvin MacKenzie and all those who use him for his “opinions” it was announced that he has been invited to attend the culture and sport select committee to give evidence of that coverage in The Sun from 1989. And Steve Rotheram, the MP who kicked off Monday’s debate, is to sit on that committee.

Mr Rotheram told the Echo he was unsure if MacKenzie would attend, saying: “I have the train of thought that maybe he will go ‘yes, I will go toe to toe with these on this’. He may do the chicken run and say he is not bothering.

“He keeps on shifting his position. We would just be satisfied if he would just tell the truth. I am not saying people will automatically fall in line with him but he needs to come clean.”

The longer MacKenzie finds institutions like the BBC and private organisations like ITV and The Daily Mail employ him regardless of his damaging acts in 1989 the less chance there is of him having the balls to speak to the committee.

Perhaps the committee could ask those organisations to attend to explain themselves too – without resorting to one of their cut-and-pasted stock responses.

* The people included in the last round of emails were:

Peter.Fincham@itv.com, Fiona.Keenaghan@itv.com, Kevin.Lygo@itv.com, Adam.Crozier@itv.com (the former FA man), Simon.Pitts@itv.com, Fru.Hazlitt@itv.com, Ian.Griffiths@itv.com, paul.dale@itv.com, Adam.Vandermark@itv.com (editor of This Morning), Mike.Large@itv.com, Mary.Fagan@itv.com and Caroline.Cook@itv.com.

Author: Jim Boardman

Writes on here and talks and writes on The Anfield Wrap website, magazine and podcast . Also writes for Mirror Football. Twitter: @jimboardman.

6 Comments

  1. Excellent points sharply made, Jim. MacKenzie’s ‘day in the Sun’ WILL come to an end as the real ‘Truth’ is finally told.

  2. Brilliantly put, Jim. People like McKenzie are like a fire. They spread their lies and cause huge amounts of damage. But starve them of oxygen and they will soon go out.

    Lets keep the pressure on ITV, BBC, The Daily Mail and any other institution that feels it necessary to keep McKenzie’s vile lies in the public domain.

    The sooner he is starved of oxygen (in a figurative sense, I’m not condoning someone actually starving him of oxygen) the sooner he will disappear, along with his lies, into the ether.

  3. Another excellent piece, Jim, and, hopefully,will keep the the pressure on. I realise
    that using ‘hopefully’ seems a little negative. My negativity is based on the many
    comments posted in response to articles published in the national press. The ignorance
    displayed by so many posters is breathtaking. Time and time again they refer to
    ticketless fans and drunken fans contributing to/causing the tragedy. With people like
    you at the helm we can look forward to the families getting the justice they so much
    deserve.

  4. I’m a supporter of LFC in Singapore, a fan since 1977. I urge all UK reds to sign the petition on Mackenzie. Only then will the truth come out. Justice for the 96!

  5. Jim, when Justice comes (and it WILL come), it will be because of people like you. YNWA

  6. Excellent piece, well said! you say what we all think once again. the pressure will be kept on them, they should be very aware that we don’t give up we continue for them all, for the 96 their families and friends and for liverpool and it’s football club! for them to underestimate us would be insane.