Britain’s biggest-selling tabloid newspaper, The Sun, has been accused of glorifying domestic violence, after it ran an interview with the ex-husband of author J.K. Rowling on its front page under the headline: “I slapped JK and I’m not sorry.”
Politicians and charities have expressed outrage at the paper, which featured a doorstep interview with the “Harry Potter” author’s first husband in which he refused to apologize for slapping her.
Rowling revealed in an essay on Wednesday that she is a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
“Headlines matter,” UK charity Women’s Aid said. “This morning we have been speaking to The Sun about today’s front page and the negative impact it has had, and we will continue to speak to them to reflect survivors’ voices.”
Opposition Labour MP Jess Phillips called the headline “awful,” and several MPs called on The Sun to issue an apology.
The front page article featured quotes from Rowling’s former partner, Jorge Arantes, in which he admitted that he abused her but refused to apologize for doing so. A subhead reads “Sun confronts her first husband.”
CNN has been unable to independently verify The Sun’s reporting of its exchange with Arantes.
The paper defended its headline on Friday but said “it was certainly not our intention to ‘enable’ or ‘glorify’ domestic abuse.”
“We were disgusted by the comments of JK Rowling’s ex-husband, and branded him ‘sick’ and ‘unrepentant’ in our coverage,” it said in a statement. “Our intention was to expose a perpetrator’s total lack of remorse.”
CNN has contacted The Sun for further comment.
“What this has done is give national media coverage to a perpetrator of domestic abuse to attempt to justify his actions,” domestic abuse charity Refuge said.
The story was published two days after Rowling wrote in a personal essay about her experience of being in an allegedly abusive relationship.
“I’ve been in the public eye now for over twenty years and have never talked publicly about being a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor,” the author wrote. “This isn’t because I’m ashamed those things happened to me, but because they’re traumatic to revisit and remember.”
‘Heads should roll,’ says MP
The Sun said it interviewed Rowling’s first husband Arantes outside his mother’s home in Porto, Portugal, in a journalistic practice known as doorstepping.
Its story featured a handful of quotes in which Arantes denied abusing Rowling, despite acknowledging that he slapped her, which is a form of physical abuse. “I slapped Joanne — but there was not sustained abuse. I’m not sorry for slapping her,” he is quoted as saying.
The story then details the couple’s history and Rowling’s Wednesday essay. The pair married in 1992 and Rowling left Arantes the following year, she wrote in the essay.
The front page “reflects how violence against women so often gets dismissed ‘as a domestic,’” Labour MP Stella Creasy wrote on Twitter. “Heads should roll for doing this, not newspaper presses.”
“This reporting is unacceptable, glorifies domestic violence & disparages the millions of victims of domestic violence,” Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, added.
Rowling has been criticized in recent days for her views on transgender issues, which she set out in detail in the same 3,600-word essay.
The author wrote that her previous anti-trans comments were connected to her experience as an abuse survivor, which had led her to hold “concerns around single sex spaces.”
“I’m mentioning these things now not in an attempt to garner sympathy, but out of solidarity with the huge numbers of women who have histories like mine, who’ve been slurred as bigots for having concerns around single-sex spaces,” Rowling wrote.
She received criticism from trans activists and public figures, including cast members of the “Harry Potter” movie franchise. “Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are,” actress Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger in the “Potter” films, wrote on Twitter hours after the comments, without mentioning Rowling.
“Transgender women are women,” Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry, added in a blog post for The Trevor Project, a non-profit organization devoted to suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth. “Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo (Rowling) or I.”
UK charity Mermaids, which supports transgender children and teenagers, condemned The Sun’s front page on Friday. “As a trans charity, our staff deal with cases of domestic abuse regularly and we hold unquestioning solidarity with all victims of domestic violence,” the charity said. “No victim or vulnerable group should be used to sell newspapers.”
The Sun is Britain’s most-read paid newspaper, according to the industry’s latest circulation figures, selling around 1.2 million copies a day.
As with rival titles in the UK’s raucous tabloid landscape, its front pages frequently draw controversy.
CNN’s Tara John contributed to this report.