Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper became the first UK tabloid to defy the royal ban on publishing photos of Prince Harry letting it all hang out in Las Vegas.
The pictures of the 27-year-old Prince, naked and covering his 'family jewels', have been widely circulated on the Internet after first popping up on TMZ and have been published in newspapers around the world but the British press have so far declined to put them in print.
The Sun printed the pictures in all their naked, grainy glory and defended their actions by claiming the photos were already "a mouse-click away" from anyone with Internet access. That goes against a stern warning by Palace’s lawyers, via the Press Complaints Commission, not to publish the photos because they would violate Prince Harry's privacy.
The Sun, part of the Rupert Murdoch News Corp empire, waded into a free speech debate by claiming there was a "clear public interest in publishing the Harry pictures" in order to have a debate about the behavior of the man third in line to the throne. The photos have "potential implications for the Prince’s image representing Britain around the world," claimed Sun editors.
And it probably doesn't hurt that gossip-hungry readers will be buying more of Britain's top-selling tabloid.
Reuters reports that Kelvin MacKenzie, a former editor of the Sun, that Murdoch himself would have had to approve the decision to defy the Royal family.
"A picture like that can't have been published without Rupert Murdoch getting involved," MacKenzie told BBC TV. "The issues are too large and too controversial and I salute Rupert for not being cowed by, effectively, the establishment."
Sun managing editor David Dinsmore told AP that editors carefully thought about the decision to run the photos and that they carefully consider the Royal family's wishes. "This is about the ludicrous situation where a picture can be seen by hundreds of millions of people around the world on the Internet, but can't be seen in the nation's favorite paper," Dinsmore said.