Byline Times released Part 2 of their “three-part exposé” on Dan Wootton on Thursday. Although by Byline’s own admission, they now have so many people coming forward to speak about Wootton’s work conduct, their exposé might end up being much more than a trilogy. Byline’s Part 2 is exclusively about Wootton’s conduct at the Sun, where he worked from 2013 through 2020. He ran the Sun’s Bizarre column, which is the outlet’s signature entertainment/gossip column. But as we saw in real time, Wootton found ways to stretch his purview and, in his final years at the Sun, he was constantly covering the royal beat, politics, major entertainment stories and more. He was not only a writer but an editor with the newspaper, which meant he had a lot of power within the tabloid – power over men and women. He was a terrible boss – he sexually harassed people, he bullied subordinates, he tried to “out” coworkers, he stole coworker’s sources and much, much more. Byline Times reveals that six people received out-of-court settlements from the Sun because of the toxic workplace culture created by Wootton.
Wootton left behind a trail of destruction at the Sun: Byline Times has now spoken to multiple former editorial and support staff at Britain’s biggest tabloid, many of whom are fearful of being identified after their experiences working at Murdoch-owned News UK – with one left suicidal, another suffering stress-induced hair loss, and others deserting the industry. For that reason, we are protecting their identities, although they are known to their former employer which, last night – in response to a request for comment sent by Byline Times – contacted all staff at The Sun, announcing that it was looking into our “allegations urgently”.
Six employees received settlements after complaining about Wootton’s bullying & harassment: In one of the cases, a very senior member of The Sun team took a kitchen knife to a meeting with a former editor of the newspaper with the intention of slitting their own wrists in front of the executive, who had sided with Wootton in a dispute ultimately settled for a six-figure sum. The Sun made the pay-out at the eleventh hour ‘at the steps’ of an employment tribunal in 2018, at which emails from Wootton disclosed to the employee’s lawyers would have entered the public record and led to judicial findings of fact.
Sexual harassment: Former staff have told Byline Times’ investigators how Wootton “continually tried to make people admit they were bisexual or gay – he challenged people on their sexual orientation all the time”. Several sources have spoken of the sexual harassment of male colleagues, while at least two female colleagues were reduced to tears daily by his conduct. Naming three particular targets of “very inappropriate behaviour”, they said: “He sexually harassed these male colleagues all the time. One would come in and Dan would often comment on the way he looked and goad him, saying ‘are you sure you want to be married? We all know you’re gay’. He was pressurising them to turn [gay] and acting like it was a joke but people – men, women, everyone who heard – were visibly uncomfortable especially as it was coming from a boss.”
Wootton controlled the payment system for sources: The staffer said: “It was ridiculously stressful. He was constantly condescending and sarcastic. Diaries of his behaviour were kept – the things he was doing. As the boss, he had control over the company payment system. He would sabotage other journalists. He would go into the payment system and find out the names of contacts. He would then get in touch with them himself and make them deal with him directly. It was impossible to do your job. The most valuable thing a journalist has are their contacts. They are our stock in trade. It was a classic campaign of constructive dismissal. He knew what he was doing.”
Everything changed when the Sun brought in the current editor, Victoria Newton: In February 2020, on her first day in the role, Wootton left Newton furious by “demanding” she promote him, prompting a “cute” move by the new editor, who reached out to Wootton’s “best remaining royal contact” and placed them on a special retainer ensuring that they dealt exclusively with her. A source said: “This was the beginning of the end for Dan at The Sun. He didn’t like having the same move pulled on him that he had done to so many contacts of other people.” Less than a year later, Wootton left News UK for his current position at GB News.
“The new editor… reached out to Wootton’s ‘best remaining royal contact’ and placed them on a special retainer ensuring that they dealt exclusively with her.” Meaning Wootton had been paying a royal contact for some time, then Victoria Newton went behind Wootton’s back, and put that royal contact on retainer, dealing with her exclusively? If the royal contact actually works in, say, Kensington Palace, this is not only unacceptable and unethical, it’s against the law. Note the timing too – February 2020, weeks after Wootton broke the Sussexit story in January of that year. And months after Newton defanged Wootton, the Sun then gave a seven-figure secret settlement to Prince William. In 2019, Wootton was also the one to break the infamous “rural rival” story.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, GB News.