The Daily Mail refused to remove photographs of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak entering the New York home of billionaire and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in 2016 from its website, after Barak threatened to sue and claimed that the photos amount to "blood libel."
The British tabloid added that Barak's claim that it sought to benefit the Democratic Israel chairman's political rivals ahead of the September 17 election is 'absurd.'
>> Read more: Barak, reacting to Epstein reports, looked almost desperate - and for good reason | Analysis
The Daily Mail's announcement comes after Barak threatened to sue the paper on Wednesday for publishing his picture alongside photos of four young women, whom they claimed entered the house the same day, although apparently at different times. Barak's collar was turned up in the photo, concealing his face.
In its statement the tabloid said: "DailyMail.com stands by its recent story concerning Ehud Barak’s relationship with the convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein 100 percent."
"We note that Mr. Barak’s assertion that he was not party to Mr. Epstein’s illegal activities is a denial of a claim we have never made," the Daily Mail said in their statement, adding that the story only referenced the content of the photos.
"These photographs were originally published in 2016, without complaint, when Mr. Barak was described only as ‘an unidentified man’. The reason for the latest article is that Mr. Barak has now admitted he is the man in the photographs, which also raises a legitimate question about his statement that he 'never met Epstein in the company of women or young girls.'"
The Daily Mail added that they had attempted to contact Barak prior to publishing the article and had been unable to do so.
"The suggestion that the article was published maliciously in order to ‘benefit his political opponent’ is absurd. DailyMail.com has no view at all on Israel’s internal politics which are properly a matter for the Israeli people."
On Wednesday, Barak sent the Daily Mail a letter in which he demanded they remove the picture from their website. In addition, the former prime minister demanded that they release an apology for publishing the picture, and commit not to publish similar stories about him in the future. Barak also asked the British tabloid for monetary compensation.
"A despicable act has been committed in Israel, a false and baseless blood libel," Barak, who is currently running for Knesset as the head of his newly-established Democratic Israel party, said.
The letter said that the Daily Mail hadn't attempted to obtain Barak's response to the picture, and that its publication caused 'severe damage' to Barak's reputation and his election campaign.
Democratic Israel issued a statement on Tuesday saying “Barak disgustedly rejects the loathsome insinuations in this article. Neither the report nor the insinuations have any basis. They are a complete lie, aside from the fact that Barak admits it’s very cold in New York in January.
“The Daily Mail has published several false articles of this type in the past about Barak as well as other people. Other journalists who have looked into these reports haven’t found any evidence for these lies," the statement read.
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