IPSO’s heavily-critical report finds multiple breaches of code of conduct in attacks on Liverpool pensioner – and even finds publication failed to cooperate in regulator’s investigation
The Jewish Chronicle has been heavily censured by press regulator IPSO for a series of attacks on a Labour-supporting pensioner in Liverpool published when the paper was claiming two former Liverpool MPs were being victimised.
Audrey White complained to IPSO – usually considered a toothless regulator because it is run by the newspapers it regulates – about the Chronicle’s conduct and disregard for accuracy in a series of articles by Lee Harpin.
IPSO’s judgment severely criticises the paper for repeatedly failing to ensure its claims about Ms White’s behaviour and her standing in the Labour Party – and for failing to correct inaccuracies even after they were identified.
IPSO’s adjudication outlines the nature and seriousness of the Chronicle’s fake claims about Ms White:
The articles reported that the complainant had been “expelled” from the Labour Party in the 1980s, by the then leadership. It said that she had then “lied” about her date of birth on her application to re-join the Party in 2015, “on the day Jeremy Corbyn became leader.” The articles also claimed that during the complainant’s local Constituency Labour Party (CLP) meeting, the complainant had been “amongst a group of militants who repeatedly interrupted” their MP while she delivered a speech. The articles also said that the complainant had “received a number of formal warnings from the Party over allegations of bullying against Party members “, and said that she had “falsely claimed that a Labour councillor was under investigation by the police for having ‘cruelly taunted’ a ‘disabled pensioner suffering from cancer’”. One article reported that the complainant had been a member of the Socialist Party.
Ms White’s complaint that these claims were false was entirely upheld. IPSO stated, for example, that:
the newspaper had not taken any additional steps to investigate or corroborate the source’s claim that the complainant had been “expelled” from the Labour Party in the 1980s, nor had it produced any evidence to support this easily verifiable claim.
Similarly, it had produced no evidence that the complainant had, in fact, entered an incorrect date of birth in her application to re-join the Party in 2015
As also happened in the case of accusations against Ms White’s local Labour party by a recent BBC Panorama programme, recordings of events proved that other claims were false:
The Committee listened to the partial recording of the CLP meeting provided during IPSO’s investigation. It was apparent to the Committee that the MP had spoken in a consistent and conversational tone; the crowd had not been “rowdy”, as alleged.
In any event, the statement from the former Mayor of Liverpool, which the newspaper had referenced in support of the claim that the complainant had “repeatedly interrupted” the MP while she had delivered her speech, clearly did not demonstrate that the complainant, or a group which she was a part of, had conducted themselves in this way.
The statement provided by the newspaper supported the complainant’s position that she had responded to an open invitation to ask questions. The publication of this claim represented a further failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, in breach of Clause 1 (i) and gave a significantly misleading impression of the complainant’s conduct towards the Labour MP during the meeting, which the newspaper had not offered to correct, in breach of Clause 1 (ii)…
Yet, the newspaper had not been able to produce any further evidence to demonstrate that the complainant had received a “number” of warnings following allegations of bullying, as claimed. The single letter produced by the newspaper did not support this claim, and accordingly there was a breach of Clause 1 (i).
To report that the complainant had received multiple warnings from the Party was significant, as it gave credibility to a central thrust of the articles, which was that the complainant’s conduct in relation to her dealings with individuals within the Labour Party had consistently fallen below the standards expected. No correction had been offered to address this significantly misleading claim, in breach of Clause 1 (ii)
The issue of the Jewish Chronicle failing to correct false claims was a repeated theme in the judgment, for example:
The publication had published a claim the accuracy of which it could not defend; the result was a breach of Clause 1 (i). The articles’ claim that the complainant had made “false” allegations concerning the actions of the police, was significant given its seriousness, and furthered the misleading impression of the complainant’s conduct towards Labour politicians. Upon receipt of the correspondence provided by the complainant, the newspaper had not offered to correct this significantly inaccurate claim, in breach of Clause 1 (ii).
But the criticism does not end there. IPSO also found the Chronicle extremely uncooperative during IPSO’s investigation of its conduct, stating that the paper had repeatedly failed to respond to questions put to it and that its conduct had been so ‘unacceptable’ that a referral has been made to IPSO’s standards department.
IPSO also found that Ms White’s claim that a right-wing councillor was under investigation for abusive behaviour toward a disabled pensioner was accurate. The Jewish Chronicle had alleged that this was a false claim.
The Chronicle has published the correction ordered by IPSO only today, but the SKWAWKBOX understands that IPSO reached its findings in July.
The Merseyside Pensioners’ Association in which Audrey White is a leading figure has issued a lengthy statement, of which an extract is below:
Merseyside Pensioners Association welcomes the findings of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) in upholding the complaint by one of our members against the Jewish Chronicle for publishing smears and falsehoods against Labour activists in Liverpool.
Audrey White, who was nominated as one of BBC Radio 4’s ‘100 most influential women of the century’ (for defending women from sexual abuse in the workplace) was targeted by the Jewish Chronicle with a litany of lies and falsehoods reported by Lee Harpin – an ex-News of the World journalist arrested in connection with the phone-hacking scandal.
Harpin penned four separate articles containing incendiary and unsubstantiated claims discrediting the 68-year-old pensioner and Labour activist from Liverpool, Riverside. IPSO’s committee stated that “the publication’s (Jewish Chronicle) conduct during IPSO’s investigation was also unacceptable” and has been escalated to IPSO’s Standards Department.
The findings make clear that the reporting of the Jewish Chronicle and journalist Lee Harpin fall far below the professional and ethical standards expected of journalists working today — particularly as pertains to accuracy and fact-checking (the most basic principles of reporting).
Merseyside Pensioners Association has itself been a target of the Jewish Chronicle and we condemn the personal attacks, fake news and fabrications employed by this journal…
The MPA congratulates Audrey in persevering with a nine month struggle to clear her name and we look forward to the Jewish Chronicle publishing the remedy as mandated by the ruling. We also ask for a suspension of these kind of politically motivated press-smears against Labour activists, as we fight an election for the Corbyn-led Labour government our country need
Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard has not responded to a request for comment. The SKWAWKBOX has been unable to reach Lee Harpin, the author of the criticised articles, which remain online at the time of writing.
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