Rupert Murdoch-Owned Tabloid Retracts Article That Shamed NY Paramedic For Selling Nude Photos During Pandemic

“HEARTS RACING: Paramedic is ‘making ends meet’ by sharing XXX-rated pics on OnlyFans,” read the now-deleted Dec. 12 headline, published on The Sun’s website.

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The article, by reporter Danielle Cinone, detailed the online exploits of 23-year-old Lauren Caitlyn Kwei, a paramedic from New York who began selling nude photos on subscription content website OnlyFans to supplement her income during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sun deleted its article — a re-reporting of an equally salacious New York Post story — after the Post was accused of shaming Kwei for (her words) “just trying to make ends meet.” Per my Atlanta, GA reporter friend Peter M. Heimlich, Britain’s independent press regulator IPSO allows member publishers, including The Sun, to pull content without explanation.

Here’s what you’ll see if you try to access the article on the U.K. version of The Sun’s website:

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And here’s what you’ll see if you try to access the same on the U.S. version of the site. Note that the words “legal removal” appear in the URL, suggesting the article was removed for legal reasons:

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The Post and The Sun are owned by News Corp, a U.S. media conglomerate founded in 2012 by Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Both publications used titillating language to sensationalise Kwei’s story, while failing to properly address the larger story identified by New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in this tweet reflecting the broad response to the article:

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If you can’t read Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet, it says:

“Leave her alone. The actual scandalous headline here is ‘Medics in the United States need two jobs to survive.'”

On Sunday, Kwei accused Post staff reporter Dean Balsamini of jeopardising her job, an allegation bolstered by the Post’s own reporting. The gory details are included in a message posted by Kwei on fundraising website GoFundMe:

Most of the quotes in that article are me defending myself to this reporter. He did not include that I begged him to remain anonymous (which was never agreed to) and that I told him my safety and job were going to be at risk if he posted this article. He truly did not care. He went on to call my employer and my mother. As some of you may know, I’ve been home with my family in WV following my father going into cardiac arrest last week. I have not been able to speak with my employer because of this and I still do not know what they are going to do. As of right now, I do still have a job but I will probably find out tomorrow if I don’t.”

As of publication, the Post’s version of the story is still available online.

I’ve asked The Sun for comment.

Update, December 18, 2020: This story got some pick-up.

Via “NY Post Won’t Pull Story About Paramedic With OnlyFans Account – But Murdoch’s UK Sun Just Did” by Lindsey Ellefson, The Wrap, December 14, 2020:

On Monday, the Sun, a U.K.-based tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, pulled its version of a controversial story about a New York City paramedic with an OnlyFans account. The story originally ran on Saturday in the New York Post, also a News Corp property.

As of Monday evening, the story was still up on the Post’s site, while Sun readers were met with a generic landing page where the story once was, as first noted by the Shooting the Messenger blog. The landing page reads, “Sorry, page unavailable. We can’t seem to find what you’re looking for. Try our search below or return to our homepage.”

A representative for the Post did not immediately respond when asked if the American tabloid will follow suit, and a representative for the Sun did not respond to a request for elaboration on the story’s deletion. Investigative blogger Peter Heimlich — whose reporting revealed that Britain’s independent press regulator IPSO allows member publishers to pull content without explanation — pointed TheWrap to his previous comments that the practice “puts the authority of editors above the public’s right to know” and “leaves open the door to countless opportunities for misconduct.”

Via “Murdoch-Owned Tabloid The Sun Silently Deletes New York City Medic OnlyFans Story From Site” by Zachary Petrizzo, Mediaite, December 15, 2020:

The UK-based tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, The Sun U.K., silently deleted an article from their website on Monday. The now-deleted story was an aggregation of a New York Post article which revealed that a New York City paramedic also worked as an OnlyFans model to supplement her income…

Journalist Dean Sterling Jones of the blog Shooting the Messenger first noticed the now-deleted post from The Sun.

Gay Panic, Poe’s Law, and the Strange Cult of Julian Assange

How my corrections story about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange ended up on a bunch of fringe conspiracy websites

I recently blogged about The Sun, a popular British tabloid newspaper owned by Aussie media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

In March, the paper falsely reported that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was accused of raping two men during a 2010 visit to Sweden.

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On my request, the paper corrected the error and added this note to the enclosing article: “A previous version of this story said that Assange had sex with two men who later accused him of rape. In actual fact they were women. The story was corrected on 10th March.”

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Shortly after the correction was published, the article was heavily revised and the original reporter’s name replaced with the name “Eileen Weybridge.”

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However, when I called the Sun’s personnel department I was told they had no records of anyone with that name.

After failing to get answers from the editor who made the correction, in May I blogged the story with the sub-heading, “Did The Sun newspaper create a fake reporter?” which I then sent to Assange with a request for comment.

Although Assange didn’t respond directly, he tweeted this…

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…after which the story was picked up by the libertarian-leaning Free Thought Project and shared by a number of fringe conspiracy sites including that of British conspiracy theorist David Icke, who claims that the Queen is a shape-shifting lizard.

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One YouTuber, speculating about the Sun’s initial reporting error, said he believed the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency had planted the male rape claim to smear Assange.

Ironically, in March I’d joked that British authorities had planted the false claim to coax Assange out of self-imposed exile because if he were convicted of raping two women it would end any rumours about his sexuality.

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The Takeaway

1. Fake bylines are a bad idea.
2. A simple corrections request can get very 
complicated.
3. Assange’s fanbase includes vocal conspiracy theorists.
4. Gay panic is still a thing.
5. Never underestimate Poe’s Law.*

To read more about how this strange story developed, click here, here, and here.

*Poe’s Law: An internet adage which states that, without a clear indicator of the author’s intent, it’s impossible to distinguish satire from the real thing.