Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has defended its decision to publish pictures in 2005 by British tabloid The Sun and the New York Post of Saddam Hussein in his underpants after being warned that News Corp could face an investigation in the United States over payments made to obtain them.
The image was printed on the front page of both papers in May 2005 which received a complaint from President Bush’s spokesperson. Graham Dudman, The Sun’s managing editor revealed that the papers did pay for the pictures of the Iraqi dictator in captivity which were rumored to have come from the U.S. military.
In 2005, The Sun’s headline read “The Tyrant’s In His Pants” and the New York Post opted for “Butcher of Sagdad” alongside an image of Saddam Hussein in a pair of Y-fronts. Murdoch's U.S. tabloid credited The Sun on its front page for images that were thought to date back to between January and April 2004.
News Corp have said that they stood by their decision to publish, stating that efforts to highlight the story and link it to ongoing anti-corruption investigations in the U.S. and the UK were a “lame attempt to regurgitate old news.”
Statements made by The Sun’s managing editor, who at the time stated News Corp had said the issue had been widely reported on, a spokesman added: "We didn't believe then, and certainly don't believe now, that it was wrong to acquire and publish newsworthy photographs of a notorious war criminal."
The Sun did not dispute paying for the photographs; Dudman stated that in 2005 the newspaper paid a small amount to secure the images which was in excess of £500 ($795) already paid. Having paid the extra they acted aggressively to defend its copyright.
Payments to public officials are illegal in the U.S and the UK. Since the scandal, 21 journalists at The Sun have been arrested as part of the long-running investigation into corrupt payments in Britain. The U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act bans U.S.-owned companies from bribing public officials, and the company is under investigation by the FBI.