The Sun has issued an apology to Sky Sports News presenter Kirsty Gallacher after it ran a story claiming she may have been drunk on air shortly before collapsing and being taken to hospital.
The story, headlined: “Thirsty Kirsty TV Collapse” was published online on 22 December, 2016.
It appeared in print the next day with the sub-headline: “THAT’S A SLUR: It’s exhaustion & a virus not booze, says telly girl”.
The article claimed fans had accused the presenter, 40, of slurring her words on TV and pointed out she had been on out with friends the night before, which she posted about on Twitter.
It said Gallacher had collapsed in a corridor at Sky’s studio during an advert break after 18 minutes of an hour-long presenting “stint” and had to be taken to hospital.
Sources close to Gallacher were quoted as saying she was “suffering from exhaustion and a virus” and “doesn’t remember being in the ambulance”.
Lawyers representing Gallacher filed a High Court claim for libel damages up to £100,000, breach of privacy and breach of the Data Protection Act on the day after the story appeared in print, Press Gazette revealed last month.
They argued the article wrongly gave the impression that Gallacher was drunk on air, or that she lied in saying that she slurred her words because she was unwell.
They said the article had caused “serious harm” to Gallacher’s reputation, telling the court she had been “subjected to enormous online goading and ridicule” through reader comments and tweets as a result of the article.
They added: “In addition to having a reputation for being a professional at work, the claimant also has a reputation as being a fit and health conscious individual (which she is) and, in the circumstances, the publication of the article seriously harmed and damaged her reputation and is likely to continue to cause serious harm to it in future.”
Solicitors also claimed The Sun had breached Gallacher’s privacy by publishing information about her health.
It read: “Our 23 December 2016 article ‘Thirsty Kirsty TV Collapse’ may have been understood to suggest that Kirsty Gallacher did not collapse at work due to viral exhaustion but because she was in fact inebriated.
“We did not intend to suggest this and are happy to confirm that it was not the cause. We apologise to Ms Gallacher for any distress and embarrassment caused.”
Press Gazette understands that the legal action has now been settled.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog