Paul Dacre has broken his silence following the row over an article printed by the Daily Mail about Labour leader Ed Miliband’s father.
The editor of the paper defended a piece published on Ralph Miliband with the headline “the man who hated Britain, arguing that whilst it was “controversial”, it was also “justifiable”.
Writing in the Guardian and the Daily Mail, Mr Dacre said the media had become gripped by a “collective hysteria” and was “obsessed” with the story, and accused the BBC of a “one-sided tone in their reporting to misrepresent Geoffrey Levy’s article on Ralph Miliband”.
In a statement, the BBC said it rejected “any suggestion that our reporting has been biased” and said it had it had “followed the story as it unfolded and ensured both sides had the chance to express their views”.
Mr Dacre said the article, printed on 1 October, had “examined the views held by Miliband senior over his lifetime, not just as a 17-year-old youth”.
“The picture that emerged”, he continued, “was of a man who gave unqualified support to Russian totalitarianism until the mid-50s, who loathed the market economy, was in favour of a workers' revolution, denigrated British traditions and institutions such as the royal family, the church and the army and was overtly dismissive of western democracy.”
Mr Miliband reacted with anger after the article was published about his father, a Marxist academic, and said he was “appalled” by the statement that his father hated Britain, describing it as a “lie”.
After being granted a right of reply, Mr Miliband's response was published alongside an editorial by the Mail accusing his father of leaving an “evil legacy”, accompanied by an abridged version of Mr Levy’s article.
Today Mr Dacre conceded the headline was controversial, but argued "popular newspapers have a long tradition of using provocative headlines to grab readers' attention."
"In isolation that headline may indeed seem over the top, but read in conjunction with the article we believed it was justifiable."
He said the “heat, hatred, irrationality and prejudice provoked by last week’s row” demonstrated that politicians should not be allowed to control press regulation, drawing parallels between the Mail and the Guardian.
“And while the Mail does not agree with the Guardian over the stolen secret security files it published, I suggest that we can agree that the fury and recrimination the story is provoking reveals again why those who rule us - and who should be held to account by newspapers - cannot be allowed to sit in judgment on the press.”
“Newspapers are the only mass media left in Britain free from the control of the state”, he added.