Some Notes on Dan Wootton vs Byline Times

From a statement by GB News presenter Dan Wootton:

A hard left blog is on a deranged campaign of harassment designed to destroy me financially, mentally and professionally – but, with your help, they will not succeed.

Byline Times has eschewed all journalistic, legal and moral practices to publish a series of defamatory and untrue claims as part of a highly politicised witch hunt designed to cancel and de-platform me.

…The line-up of people which Byline and other biased sources appear to be relying on for their information include a convicted phone hacker, an abusive ex-boyfriend turned hard left campaigner who admitted in writing to me that he is a “psychopath” and threatened to “slit my throat”, a recently released violent criminal who has previously blackmailed me, and a convicted extortionist I have never met who was sent to jail for many years after being described by a judge as a “compulsive” danger to the public…

Wootton alleges that he is being targeted by Byline Times for political reasons (although the “hard left” descriptor is ludicrous), and he is asking supporters for £150,000, apparently to bring a libel case. His appeal follows a previous statement that he made on his TV show, in which he admitted to “errors of judgement in the past”, but beyond denying anything criminal did not go into detail about what these “errors” may have been [1].

There are a couple of threads to unpick here.

First, as reported in the Guardian, the main thrust of the initial Byline Times article concerns allegations that Wootton had used the online alias “Martin Branning” to ask men working in the media for explicit images in return for money. Certainly, it seems that someone has been doing this – the alias was first noted by Popbitch back in 2021, and the Guardian says that in the last three years it has “talked to multiple individuals working in the media who say they have been approached online by a person using the name Martin Branning”.

The Byline Times reporters claim to have spoken with four people contacted by “Branning” who believe from context that it was Wootton, as well as someone who believes that messages from someone using the identity “Maria Joseph” were from him. Are they all mistaken, or making it up, even? According to the article:

…a representative for Dan Wootton declined to provide Byline Times with an on-the-record response. It is understood that he strongly denies all allegations of criminality. The representative did not clarify, when asked, whether Wootton also denies being Martin Branning.

On TV Wootton referred to “legal advice” which supposedly means that he can’t comment on details.

As well as the five alleged targets quoted by Byline Times, the article also reports claims that Wootton had admitted to being “Martin Branning” to a “former colleague and friend”, and to his (i.e. Wootton’s) ex-partner Alex Truby. It is difficult to judge their credibility, but Wootton’s counter-allegations against Truby are of little value without more detail. In any case, these two witnesses are not crucial to the story.

It also should be noted that the five alleged targets are distinct from the “violent criminal” and the “convicted extortionist” referenced by Wootton. The “convicted phone hacker” is Dan Evans, the co-author of by the Byline Times articles. Some may judge that Evans’ historic involvement in this widespread illegal practice means that any subsequent journalism produced by him can be dismissed out of hand; others, however, may take the view that his regret means that his actions were just “errors of judgement in the past”.

Second, we come to the issue of criminality. Byline Times alludes to the existence of criminal allegations on Twitter, presumably referencing the extortionist (it’s not clear where the “violent criminal” fits in), and GB News has highlighted the extortonist’s discreditable past as an answer to all the allegations against Wootton. This person is not relevant to the question of “Martin Branning’s” true identity, and he is barely present (if at all) in the Byline Times article; nevertheless, there is a sense that his more serious (and unevidenced) allegations are being conflated with the Byline Times reporting. Byline Times also notes other allegations made by Truby on Twitter, although it does not vouch for their veracity.

Byline Times further says that two people who were pestered by “Martin Branning” went to the police, and that the journalists themselves have now presented the police with a “dossier”. Does this amount to accusing Wootton of criminality? Readers will (or should) understand that a lodging a complaint does not mean that police will necessarily agree that an offence has been committed, or that that right person has been identified.

And again, although Wootton may feel aggrieved at having been the subject of police complaints, his objection does not amount to a categorical denial that he had anything to do with “Martin Branning” or “Maria Joseph”. Neither does it address further non-criminal claims in follow-up articles on Byline Times about his alleged conduct while working at the Sun (containing details consistent with a report about an unnamed “pundit” that recently appeared in Private Eye magazine [2]). This is not beside the point when you are asking people to give you money to defend your reputation. (3)

As part of his fundraising, Wootton writes that “Byline have already come for the likes of the Free Speech Union, the Legatum Institute, GB News and Douglas Murray who received substantial damages for their lies”. The reference here to Murray is something of an extrapolation, although Murray has endorsed it. I have some further background on this here.

(post expanded on 22 July 2023)

UPDATE: Expressions of support for Wootton have been posted by Nana Akua, Lord Cruddas, Leilani Downing, Baroness Foster, Laurence Fox, Nile Gardiner, Andrea Jenkyns MP, Narinder Kaur, Oli London, Louise Mensch, Allison PearsonSarah Vine and Toby Young, among others.

UPDATE 2: Also on board is QAnon hotelier John Mappin, whose Tweet has been RTed by Wootton. Mappin writes that “I can’t say WHY. But it is VITAL that Dan ⁦ @danwootton ⁩ gets ALL the help that he needs”. In reply to a query from right-wing commentator David Vance about why he can’t say, his reply is that “Because it’s private”.

UPDATE 3: Nana Akua and Oli London subsequently deleted their Tweets of support, without explanation.


1. Wootton did, however, angrily deny false claims that he had deleted Tweets relating to Huw Edwards – this myth arose because he had not Tweeted for a week due to being on holiday.

2. Final paragraph of “Phil Chase”, Private Eye 1599 (2-15 June 2023), p. 9. The article accuses various unnamed media figures of hypocrisy in relation to Phillip Schofield, a subject Wootton has expressed strong condemnatory views on.

3. In a letter from his lawyers to Byline Times, Wootton rejects suggestions of criminality relating to the “Martin Branning” story, but again without clarifying whether he used the alias at all.