Ironic: the Mirror was glad to publish this apology
The Daily Mirror has avoided a $40m (£26m) lawsuit from Liz Hurley’s former lover Steve Bing with an exercise in irony, it claims.
Bing was willing to settle without damages if the Mirror printed a high-profile apology plus his picture. Given the opportunity of paying only its own legal costs, the Mirror’s legal team promptly agreed, especially when it saw the words Bing wanted printed.
Editor Piers Morgan was said by insiders to be "welling up with tears of laughter" when he read the eulogising of Bing as "a philanthropist and humanitarian" and devised with Bing’s solicitors the front-page blurb that trumpeted the "humble and sincere apology".
But opposite the enormous picture of Bing and the grovelling words on page nine went a comment piece by Kevin O’Sullivan headlined "Why Americans can’t understand irony or sarcasm". O’Sullivan, who lived in California for years, produced some mouth-twitching moments of irony that in his experience had gone unrecognised by US citizens.
The Mirror had asked its readers to telephone Bing and tell him what they thought of him after his treatment of Hurley when she became pregnant. The Press Complaints Commission dismissed Bing’s subsequent complaints.
But then the newspaper was sued in Los Angeles for $40m for libel, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Morgan would say only: "The apology speaks for itself."
His colleagues say that the apology may not play quite as well as Bing thinks it will in the UK as it will in California. "They will take it at face value; for us it is an utterly hilarious opportunity to get out of it," they claim, adding that Morgan is thinking of introducing a niche apology section to the paper for celebrities who might otherwise sue.
A Daily Mirror spokesman said: "We were happy to publish the apology Steve Bing asked for, in return for which he has abandoned his claim for damages and legal costs.
"In his action he claimed $40m plus punitive and exemplary damages. We are paying no damages and no costs to Mr Bing, and consider these proceedings to be resolved."
By Jean Morgan