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UK editor backs out of top Washington Post job after US scrutiny of his past

UK editor backs out of top Washington Post job after US scrutiny of his past

The British journalist hired to lead the Washington Post’s newsroom has backed out of the job after the US newspaper’s own reporters began digging into his past.

Rob Winnett, the deputy editor of the Daily Telegraph, had been due to take over the Washington Post newsroom in the autumn.

He has decided to stay with the British outlet, according to the Telegraph’s editor, Chris Evans. In an email to staff, Evans added: “He’s a talented chap and their loss is our gain.”

Winnett had been hired to join the Washington Post by his old colleague Will Lewis, who is facing a staff rebellion over his plans to remake the loss-making US news outlet, which is owned by the billionaire Jeff Bezos. The hiring of Winnett, which followed the departure of former editor Sally Buzbee, would have made him one of the most powerful people in US media.

In recent weeks, both Lewis and Winnett have faced critical reporting from the Washington Post’s own journalists over their links to past British media scandals. Lewis has been accused in court filings of engaging in a cover-up at Rupert Murdoch’s News UK in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, while Winnett has received scrutiny over allegations that he used the work of a self-confessed blagger as a young Sunday Times journalist.

They were also criticised for their role in the MPs’ expenses scandal, when the Daily Telegraph paid £110,000 for a disk of stolen data. The story was seen as a public interest story by many in British media but would have broken strict rules in many US newsrooms on paying for information.

Lewis later emailed Washington Post to say that “with regret” the “incredibly talented” Winnett had withdrawn from the position of editor. He said the search for a new editor would begin immediately and that this time there would be external recruiters involved, to ensure “a timely but thorough search for this important leadership role”.

Earlier this week, Bezos appeared to signal his support for Lewis, although the turmoil in the newsroom has attracted substantial media attention. The Guardian also reported claims – denied by Lewis – that he advised Boris Johnson and senior officials at 10 Downing Street to “clean up” their phones in the midst of the Partygate scandal.