Monday, October 12, 2009
Stephen Gately: The Sun, Andy Coulson and... blackmail?
The reality of course is much more interesting than that. I must have imagined that his mother Margaret had a different view of the matter at the time. "Stephen has been bullied into doing this," she told the Mirror. "The Sun has destroyed so many lives. There was Lenny Henry and there was Sophie Rhys-Jones. Now it's my son - and us. All of us are involved in this. I have to go out and do my day's work with the whole place looking at me."
An ex-Boyzone roadie had slithered to the Sun with his gay Gately tale. Having promised to give up its habit of homophobia earlier in '99, the paper couldn't just splash with its exclusive (with its unreconstructed "gay shame" implications). It had promised: "From now on the Sun will not reveal the sexuality of gays - men or women - unless we believe it can be defended on the grounds of overwhelming public interest. If gays choose to come out, we will report it if we feel it is newsworthy or relevant. Otherwise, we will not invade the privacy of gay people."
So the paper, anxious not to lose anything to mere integrity, contacted Boyzone's PR agency and made it plain the story would come out sooner or later, so why not let the Sun handle it responsibly. Or as Boyzone manager Louis Walsh said at the time after a phone interview with the Guardian's Roy Greenslade: "Greenslade said to me that didn't Andy Coulson (of the Sun) ring me and say: `There's two ways of doing the Gately story - the right way and the wrong way?' Was that not blackmail? I said it wasn't blackmail..."
Ah, Louis, ever the pro. As he has said, "We work the tabloids. We need them. They need us." And our old friend Andy Coulson! Now the Conservative Party's media boss.