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UK press watchdog: Sun misled on queen's Brexit stance

Britain's press regulator has ruled that The Sun significantly misled readers with the headline "Queen backs Brexit." The newspaper, part of the billionaire Rupert Murdoch's vast media empire, stands by its story.

Britain's Sun misled readers with

a March 9 headline

claiming that Queen Elizabeth II was in favor of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, the Independent Press Standards Organisation ruled Wednesday. Buckingham Palace had complained to IPSO following the report, which quoted unnamed sources as saying that Queen Elizabeth opposed Britain's EU membership.

"The headline contained a serious and unsupported allegation that the queen had fundamentally breached her constitutional obligations in the context of a vitally important national debate," IPSO ruled.

According to the constitution, Elizabeth must remain neutral, and she has kept her views to herself during her 64-year reign. That would presumably extend to the royal take on the June 23 referendum on whether to remain in the bloc. By suggesting that the popular monarch favored a UK withdrawal from the European Union, The Sun not only called the queen's neutrality into question, but could also potentially have influenced voters.

'Sure she does'

"IPSO rules against Sun's Queen headline," the tabloid reported in a front-page footnote Wednesday. Inside, an article put forth the arguments and summarized the IPSO ruling. The unrepentant Sun, which sells 1.7 million copies a day and is a foundational unit of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's global press empire, ran a combative editorial defending the headline and doubling down on the veracity of the declaration.

"Does the Queen back Brexit?" the editorial asked. "We're sure she does." Referring to the queen's views, the Sun added: "Having devoted her life to Britain, we believe hers are particularly strong about the erosion of our sovereignty by the EU."

In recent days, prominent Tories have invoked historical heavyweights in making their scare cases for and against a Brexit. Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who supports the Leave campaign,

earned a rebuke

from European Council President Donald Tusk after comparing the EU's aims to those of

Nazi German Chancellor Adolf Hitler.

On Tuesday,

UK Prime Minister David Cameron

suggested that following a Brexit the "Islamic State" group and Russian President Vladimir Putin "might be happy."

According to a YouGov poll commissioned by Murdoch's Times of London, Cameron's camp narrowly leads, with 44 percent of respondents saying they would vote for the UK to remain in the EU versus 40 percent who want out. Twelve percent of respondents did not know how they would vote, and 3 percent don't intend to take part in the referendum.

mkg/kl (EFE, AFP, Reuters, AP)

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