The Sun Seems to Have Knowingly Used Illegally Obtained Information to Report on Meghan Markle

Illustration for article titled The Sun Seems to Have Knowingly Used Illegally Obtained Information to Report on Meghan Markle
Photo: Chris Jackson (Getty Images)

The Sun used illegally obtained information in its early reporting on Meghan Markle, according to the man who provided it.

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Daniel Portley-Hanks, a Los Angeles-based private investigator, admitted to providing the British tabloid with information about Markle in 2016, when she and Harry first began dating. According to the New York Times, Portley-Hanks made this confession in an affidavit he provided to Harry’s lawyers—who are currently representing him in his phone-hacking suit against both the Sun and the Daily Mirror—stating that he believes staff at the paper knew about the nature of the information. The Sun reportedly paid him $2,055 for it.

“I strongly believe that James Beal knew that what I was providing him was obtained illegally,” Portley-Hanks said of the Sun’s U.S. editor in the document.

Portley-Hanks told the Times that though at one point the Sun requested that he sign a letter agreeing not to use any “illegal methods” to uncover contact and background information about story subjects, reporters told him: “‘But if you want to get work, keep doing what you’ve been doing,’ with a nod and a wink.”

What was he doing exactly? Pulling Markle’s cell phone number, home address, and Social Security number, as well as those of her family members, from TLOxp, a restricted database. While private investigators can provide information from this database to clients under certain circumstances, it’s a violation of U.S. privacy laws to give it to the media.

Beal, the U.S. editor, did not respond to the Times’s request for comment and News Group Newspapers, the Sun’s publisher, maintained that Portley-Hanks was “instructed clearly in writing to act lawfully.”

In any case, the details Portley-Hanks dug up provided fodder for the Sun’s dubious stories on Markle and Harry’s early courtship and may have helped the paper gain access to Markle’s half sister Samantha as well as her estranged father Thomas, both of whom have trashed Markle in the press for years.

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Of course it’s hardly a surprise that a tabloid would be accused of using such shady tactics to run a story on Markle, and in the immense dossier of offenses British tabloids have committed against Meghan and Harry, this one is a mere footnote. Still, it’s extremely gross and highly unethical, to say the least.

Had Portley-Hanks not already retired as a private investigator (according to the Times), here is where I would also say: Retire, bitch!

Night blogger at Jezebel with writing at The Baffler, The Nation, The New Republic, Vice, and more.

DISCUSSION

Another newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch accused of hacking phones?

I’m shocked! Shocked, I tells ya!