Readers are complaining en masse in The Times’ subscribers-only comment section after revelations the paper spiked an unflattering story about Boris and Carrie Johnson after its initial publication.
Comments criticising The Times on its own articles have received hundreds of up votes from other subscribers.
On Saturday The Times removed an article from later editions that claimed Boris Johnson had attempted to get his then-mistress (now wife) Carrie Symonds installed as chief of staff when he was foreign secretary.
Why did The Times pull the Carrie Johnson story?
Times publisher News UK has declined to give more information on why the story was spiked, but Press Gazette understands the decision was taken due to legal reasons and the New York Times said an official had attributed it to “legal issues” without giving any specifics.
Downing Street admitted on Monday to contacting the paper about the article after publication.
Only Times subscribers are able to see or contribute to its website comment section. Amid the publication’s silence, Times subscribers are seeking answers.
For example one article, “Boris Johnson back at No 10 after minor sinus operation”, had over 1,000 comments as of Tuesday morning.
In the top comment, a subscriber asked: “On a more important subject does any reader know why the Times bowed to No 10 pressure and pulled the story which alleged that Mr Johnson had attempted to install Carrie in a £100,00-a-year job in the foreign office at a time when he was conducting a secret affair with her?”
The comment had received almost 600 favourites at time of writing. At least three commentors on the article declared they would be cancelling their subscriptions to the paper.
A second comment, with nearly 400 up votes, said: “Not a peep from this newspaper, or Dominic Raab, or the Free Speech Union or the other right wing client journalists about how the government effectively dictates what a supposed free press can or cannot publish. This is incredible.”
Another article, “Boris Johnson could get three ethics advisers instead of just one”, had over 100 comments less than 12 hours after publication.
One top comment with nearly 100 favourites asked: “Yes, but what about the ethics of The Times printing a story about Johnson trying to give a job to his then partner, then pulling it after a call from No. 10?”
Another said: “Carrie might be up for it, but it’s unlikely we’d read about that in The Times.”
But some subscribers were more sympathetic to the paper’s position.
Mark F said: “How about there was not any evidence of it actually happening, and quite rightly the Times decided not to risk a court case. I have no idea whether it is true, do you?”
Mail Online published a follow-up to The Times’ original Saturday story about Carrie and Boris Johnson, but also pulled the story later that day.
Picture: Reuters/Hannah McKay/Pool