We are saddened that such untrue claims about a well-regarded producer’s professional integrity have been made and published, and we strongly reject any allegation that the proper and normal processes weren’t followed around the 2002 award entry. Erika Wright made the award-winning radio programme and entered it for the awards under her name which was normal practice in the Science Unit at the time. With good grace she shared the prize with Mrs St. Louis afterwards, which again at the time was common practice.
The BBC’s second statement on Connie St. Louis’ false accusations against Erika Wright – emphasis mine. In response to a question they made clear that ‘shared the prize’ referred to the prize money, not to named credit or the award for the prize itself, so that there was no need and no moral requirement for Erika Wright to ask ABSW to “add [Connie’s] name to the prize“
In this blog – because I do not trust the Board of ABSW, and because I want transparency, I lay out the substance of the letter of complaint I am submitting to ABSW against Connie St. Louis. I will later blog up a second less important letter complaining of the conduct and conflict of interests of ABSW board members Martin Ince (President), Bob Ward, and Natasha Loder and asking ABSW to appoint independent members who are not conflicted and have no friendship with Connie St. Louis to judge my serious complaints against her. In particular, those three can have no part in judging complaints against her as they have all been active against Sir Tim and in her defence online.
As an aside, it’s become clear that, as a journalist told me “real journos don’t join these things”. ABSW has a big-sounding name but a mere 139 members total, I believe. The business of people like Connie St. Louis is not science journalism but conferences about science journalism which are owned and run by pretendy organizations with big-sounding names like “the Association of British Science Writers” that actually have less than 200 people in them.
My letter of formal complaint against Connie St. Louis
Standing Order 16 of the ABSW rules provides for a complaint against a member for
“Wilful or frequent misrepresentation or inaccuracy.”
Connie St. Louis has done this in the following ways:
1. She falsely accused a fellow science journalist of ethics breaches, in a for-publication email that she specifically requested be published. The nature of her false accusation involved the ABSW’s own prize. Connie St. Louis, therefore, not only lied about her fellow journalist but abused her position as an ABSW board member and former prize judge. The ABSW must rebut this false allegation about its own prize and slander of the sole winner, listed on its own website.
2. Ms. St. Louis falsely embellished her own CV, stood for election to international journalism associations on a false CV, and described herself falsely on the WCSJ 2015 brochure where she was listed as one of only three keynote speakers, in a conference for which other journalists paid money to attend. She also attacked the journalist who wrote the accurate piece about her falsifications. She further blamed City University, rather than herself, for the fact that her false CV was on their website. She further wrongfully stated that the CV was merely “out of date” when in fact, the fake achievements listed were simply invented.
3. Ms. St. Louis knowingly misreported on Sir Tim Hunt and, upon being proven to have falsely reported many elements of her story, did not retract them.
Part One: Ms. St. Louis falsely accused another science journalist of moral and ethical breaches in a for-publication email to the Times: and copied in the NUJ to that slander
Ms. St. Louis claims, wrongly, that she won the ABSW prize for “Life As a Teenager” in 2002 (and later that she should be named as a winner on the award). The BBC producer Erika Wright was the sole winner of the award.
Generously, upon being asked by the Times about her false claim to have won the award, Ms. Wright (I assume) replied via the BBC that
“The awarding of the prize was in the producer’s name, but Connie was involved and as such it would not seem unreasonable for her to put it on her CV.”
To an email in which she was shown this kind response from a reporter at the Times, Ms. St. Louis wrote, (and, in order that Ms. Wright not be libeled, I emphasize that these allegations are wholly untrue, completely false and utter rubbish):
For the first time the producer in the science unit Erika Wright broke with the traditional and ethically way that programmes from the science unit we’re entered for the Glaxo smith Kline / ABSW prize and submitted the programmes that were jointly made just in her name. She realised that this was wrong and she recognised my contribution as presenter and writer of the scripts for the programme and we shared and divided the prize. However, she neglected to ask the organisers to add my name to the prize.
The BBC issued a statement which I wrote about in a blog
We are unaware of these allegations. Any suggestion that the proper process wasn’t followed around the 2002 award is untrue.
In the comments under that blog, the academic Paula Higgins appears to imply that she was in touch with Ms. St. Louis and that Ms. St. Louis did “all the work” “Connie did all the real work” on the series. I ask ABSW to enquire of St. Louis if she said this to Higgins. Updated: Higgins refused to answer this on my blog when asked directly, but now denies that she emailed St. Louis. I shall mention this when I write my second letter of complaint to save the Association asking the question.
Upon hearing that I was going to write up my complaint against Ms. St. Louis to the ABSW, on the matter of her false accusation against Erika Wright, the BBC contacted me – not the other way around – with a further statement that they asked me to publish in full. I do so here.
“We are saddened that such untrue claims about a well-regarded producer’s professional integrity have been made and published, and we strongly reject any allegation that the proper and normal processes weren’t followed around the 2002 award entry. Erika Wright made the award-winning radio programme and entered it for the awards under her name which was normal practice in the Science Unit at the time. With good grace she shared the prize with Mrs St. Louis afterwards, which again at the time was common practice.”
I note that the BBC have confirmed to me that by ‘shared the prize’ it is meant the money received for the prize – not the award or prize itself. Therefore, Ms. St. Louis should stop, at once, describing herself as the ‘winner’ of the ABSW prize for Life as a Teenager. While it is clearly fair that she mentions her involvement with this prize-winning series and contribution to it, she did not win the ABSW prize for it.
I also complain that Ms. St. Louis has changed her stance regarded ‘Life as a Teenager’. She describes it as part of her presenting career, only, here. On her listing as a speaker for WCSJ 2011 St. Louis distinguishes between shows she produced and presented and shows she only produced, including the “Life As” series
Her most recent programme on BBC Radio 4 which she produced and presented, investigated the use of racially targeted designer drugs by pharmaceutical companies. She also presented the landmark Radio 4 series ‘Life as’ which charted the science of life before birth until death.
PART TWO – Connie St. Louis invented experience and qualifications on her CV, and ran for the WFSJ Board on that basis
I complain that Connie St. Louis embellished her CV with a number of false statements and then insulted the journalist who uncovered this wrongdoing.
She falsely claimed to have written for the Mail, the Independent, and the Sunday Times – she has never written for any of them. Tweets from the conflicted ABSW Board Member Bob Ward indicate that her excuse is she was commissioned by the Mail but it was then dropped. That does not mean “written” for a paper, even if she can adduce a piece and a kill fee.
In her CV submitted to the World Federation of Science Journalists, Ms. St. Louis omits the Daily Mail whereas she includes it in her City London CV. This shows she herself was altering her CV and was paying attention to it. I am not placing a link to her WFSJ CV itself, rather than her cover letter, in this blog as it contains her address. However I shall link to it in my email of complaint to ABSW. Quotations in this blog are from that CV.
She falsely claims to be a scientist. Ms. St Louis has a degree in biology from Hatfield Polytechnic but the commonly understood term ‘scientist’ means one who practices science or has a career in science.
She falsely claimed membership of the Royal Institution was a “qualification”. It is a charity/ museum where anybody can pay a fee to be a ‘member’ and have tea in a café. I submit that this is the more serious as her CV was listed for the World Federation of Science Journalists to stand as a Board Member, and foreign journalists are likely to have been deceived by the words ‘Royal Institution’.
From that CV: Under “Qualification and training”
I am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (since 2000) and a Member of Royal Institution (2009) the Association of British Science Writers (since 1990) and The Radio Academy ((since 1990)
Guy Adams article contains this quotation about Ms. St. Louis’ use of the Royal Institution from its own spokesman:
‘Anyone can be a member. It’s simply a service you pay for which entitles you to free tickets to visit us and gives you a discount in our cafe. It’s like having membership of your local cinema or gym.’
Why would someone include such a thing on their CV?
‘Actually, that’s a bit of a problem,’ the spokesman added. ‘We have heard of a few people using membership on their CV to imply that they have some sort of professional recognition or qualification. But it means nothing of the sort. It’s very, very odd to see this on a CV.’
Ms. St. Louis falsely claimed to have secured the “first interview with Bill Gates” in the UK. That is wholly untrue and the achievement of another journalist, Roger White, in 1993.
And I successfully coerced Bill Gates C.E.O. Microsoft obtaining his first British interview to launch the series.
Ms. St. Louis interviewed Bill Gates a year after Roger White interviewed him. Even in 1994 there was an earlier Bill Gates interview, producers the journalists Stephen Arkell and John Wyver. And that is for broadcast journalism.
The first print interview in the UK of Bill Gates was in September 1988, by the journalist Alan Cane of the Financial Times who met with him for the newspaper’s “Monday Interview”. Other journalists who interviewed Bill Gates long before Connie St. Louis include John Morely in 1992 and Deborah Wise in 1992.
Ms. St. Louis therefore falsely claims as her achievement something that belongs to the journalists Roger White as far as broadcast media goes, and Alan Cane as far as print media and being the overall first person to interview Mr. Gates.
The links to all of these have been given to me by the journalist Guy Adams of the Daily Mail, whose important work exposing the falsehoods on Ms. St. Louis’ CV has been slandered by the Association as a “personal attack”. I have re-read Mr. Adams piece and there are no personal attacks anywhere in it.
In addition there are embellishments to her CV so great as to amount to deception:
I am a regular contributor to ABC News Worldview TV programme.
She claimed she produces a whole range of programmes for Radio 4, using the present tense; the last programme she was involved in finished in 2008.
She claimed on-going involvement with government programs that had ended:
She claimed to be a ‘research scientist’.
Then Ms. St. Louis wrongfully attacked the journalist, Guy Adams, whose meticulous work exposed these falsehoods. This was wrong. She further claimed that her CV was merely ‘out of date’. This was false. It was not ‘out of date’ it was wrong because she listed things on it that were false; writing for the Times, the Mail (at all), membership of the ‘Royal Institution’, and achieving the first ever UK interview with Bill Gates.
She claimed to the WCSJ 2015 that she was an “award-winning freelancing [sic] journalist, broadcaster and scientist.” This is untrue.
I complain that in standing for election on a falsified CV – and Martin Ince of the ABSW wrote her a letter of recommendation – Connie St. Louis cheated the fourth-placed candidate Oliver Dessibourg of a place on the WFSJ Board.
Finally, Ms. St. Louis wrongfully blamed City University London for having her false CV on its website. It was never an ‘out of date’ CV but always a CV on which she herself had listed non-existent experience and “qualifications”. Ms. St. Louis told the Times in her for-publication email:
Thank you for your text. I am away on holiday. My cv has not been changed. The information that was put on the website by the university was part of online profile trial it was inaccurate and scraped from places that were old and inaccurate. I had no Idea that this incorrect information was publicly available until I was asked about it last month. This information was removed as soon as possible.This profile is in the form of that the university stipulates. It is the first time I have written a profile for the university website. I have removed the classification of my degree to fit in with this format. I have an upper second degree.
It was false that Ms. St. Louis described the information as “old and inaccurate” she had submitted that false information to the WFSJ and run for election on it in this very year. So that was a lie.
I complain that it is wrong for Ms. St. Louis to blame City University London for the false statements in her now-altered CV. If the information was “inaccurate”and “scraped from places that were old and inaccurate” this is the fault of Ms. St. Louis herself. It was she who claimed to have written for the Sunday Times and the Mail, she who claimed to have the first interview with Bill Gates.
Part Three: Connie St. Louis Falsely Reported on Sir Tim Hunt.
Connie St. Louis’ reporting of Sir Tim Hunt’s toast in Seoul is comprised, so far as I know, of the following sources: Her first and subsequent tweets on the matter, her interview with the Today Show on Radio Four, her interview with BBC Breakfast Television, her interview with France 24 on June 29, her blog for Scientific American blogs and her article for the Guardian.
When I complain of misreporting, I shall do with a link to the source in which the misreport occurs.
1. Connie St. Louis did not report the whole of Sir Tim Hunt’s speech; she quoted him partially and intentionally misleadingly.
2. Connie St. Louis falsely stated that she could independently verify her quotes because Ivan Oransky had been writing his down at the same time ‘unbeknownst to me.’ Not only were she and Oransky seated at the same table close to each other, Oransky denies this in a podcast.
…Ivan Oransky, who I’d been sitting next to. Unbeknown to each other we had written down what we had heard Hunt say at the lunch. Our quotes were identical, which meant we could independently verify the story
Whereas Mr. Oransky denied that flatly:
Ivan Oransky: But right afterward, we said, you know, “Look, we have to do something about this. Let’s compare notes on what we heard”, as we hadn’t taken notes, and – wasn’t that kind of a luncheon, where, you know, we were reporting on it.
Oransky further told Buzzfeed that all their recollections were written “post-hoc” and could not be treated as quotes:
several science journalists created a “post-hoc transcript,” Ivan Oransky…told BuzzFeed …“I wouldn’t treat them as quotes, per se, given the circumstances, but they’re the words he used.”
It is a serious misrepresentation, and lie, to claim that another journalist had written down “what he heard Tim Hunt say at the lunch” “unbeknownst to me” – even though they were at the *same table* in order to make her own reporting seem more authoritative – this “meant we could independently verify the story.”
As an Association of Science Writers you ought to condemn this utter falsehood about Oransky and their reporting – Oransky said he “wouldn’t treat them as quotes” and “we hadn’t taken notes”.
3. Connie St. Louis falsely stated that Sir Tim Hunt began his speech by ‘thanking the women for making lunch’ and then ‘thanking the women for making lunch because that was their role.’ All other witnesses deny this. Further, it is clear that she was not paying attention at the start of Sir Tim’s toast. Photographs show She had her translator earpiece in and on France 24 she stated she did not even know who was speaking.
My first thought was “Goodness me, what is that English person doing, saying these really outrageous things? I’m so embarrassed -all the way in Korea and here I am, listening to these ridiculous comments being made by a British man.” And then I suddenly realised he was Tim Hunt
4. Connie St. Louis falsely stated to the BBC that Sir Tim was not joking
I didn’t think they were intended as a joke, at all. I’d just like to say that they – you know, he went on for at least five to seven minutes
but admitted that she knew, in advance, that he was joking, because she said and tweeted that he had been ‘asked not to joke’ by hosts at the top table.
His guests had already told him not to go down this ha-ha route
She later tweeted:
@BarbaraHewson he was asked not to joke about subject when he stood by hosts at his table and ignored them
This is extremely serious misreporting, as she insisted that Sir Tim supported, in seriousness, sex-segregated laboratories, whilst knowing in advance that he had intended to joke and been warned off it.
5. Connie St. Louis falsely stated that ‘after he was finished’ ‘there was this deathly silence. Very clearly, nobody was laughing’ and ‘everybody was stony-faced.’ Audio and photographs show this to be false.
Further, not only did many people in the audience enjoy Sir Tim’s toast, Ms. St. Louis was sat at the same table as both the author of the EU report and the Korean woman scientist to which it refers who praised the toast as ‘warm and funny’. St. Louis knew, not only had plenty in that room laughed, smiled and enjoyed the toast, but people at her own table had done so.
It is not disputed that several people were offended by Sir Tim’s joke; several more thought it a faux-pas, but were not offended by it; and still others enjoyed it and laughed at it. Ms. St. Louis, however, falsely reported universal offence.
6. Connie St. Louis falsely claimed, and one might call this racist at worst and condescending at best, that none of the eyewitnesses who disagreed with her account ‘spoke English.’
Ms. Shiow Chin Tan from Malaysia, Ms. Natalia Demina from Russia and others who disagreed with her, such as Mr. Timothy Dimacali from the Philippines, and Mr. Pere Estupinya from Spain, all speak perfect English. As Ms. Tan said
I write for an English daily
And Mr. Dimacali said:
I am surprised to read Connie’s answers, as if we were in different Luncheons. Many people laughed and applauded!… I saw words about deadly scilence and stone faces in Connie SL report. That wasn’t true, people reacted quite differently. I remember that me and those who sat with me (men and women) laughed and applauded. For us it was a joke!
And Mr. Estupinya emailed me:
did St Louis really said that there was a deadly silence?wow… that’s truly false.
7. Connie St Louis falsely claimed that Sir Tim’s toast went ‘on and on’ for ‘at least five to seven minutes’ when photographs and audio data prove his brief toast was between two and three minutes long. She has never corrected herself on this point.
8. Connie St. Louis falsely reported, in her article for the Guardian, that Sir Tim Hunt had not praised women in science. Not only do all accounts including Deborah Blum’s disagree with her, the audio tape that has emerged contains the words ‘So congratulations, everybody’ which must clearly have been preceded with some praise of women in science for which he was congratulating them. Despite the emergence of the tape, she has, again, not retracted this false element of her reporting and it is a serious one; she maintained in her Guardian piece that Sir Tim had offered no positive praise of women whatsoever in his toast and that, if he had done, it would have altered matters completely. The words “…so, congratulations, everybody” prove that there was praise of women in science or science journalism in his speech.
Hunt now claims, he …praise[d] the role of women in science and in Korean society. …He did not …praise the role of women in science and in Korean society. I wish he had said, [sic] things would have been so much better.
St. Louis was malicious in claiming Hunt did not praise women in science as she endorsed accounts by Deborah Blum which openly stated that he had done so.
9. Connie St. Louis tweeted out TWICE, calling it “perfect” and “correct” and thereby endorsing it, a revolting comic that portrayed Sir Tim Hunt, in an ageist way, acting as a racist and a sexist. This is personal abuse of the most vicious kind and is ageism and slander.
10. Connie St. Louis continued falsely to report on Twitter by claiming that Sir Tim Hunt and his wife Professor Mary Collins endorsed her reporting and refusing to withdraw this wrong claim when Professor Collins corrected her. Professor Collins said:
partial quote, missing context and meaning. poor reporting IMO. I would like you to apologise for selective quoting, ignoring meaning, thanks
And so I immediately started to ask his organisation that he’s a Fellow of, the Royal Society, which is the national academy of science in the UK: “So, what are you going to do about a Fellow that says these kind of things, abroad?”
I request that an independent investigation into the false reporting by Ms. St Louis against Erika Wright and Sir Tim Hunt take place; that the ABSW confirm that Erika Wright is the sole winner of the award for ‘Life as a Teenager’; that the ABSW formally recognize that the BBC is the submitting body in terms of the prize and that the BBC has stated in terms that no ethics breach was committed by Erika Wright – either in the application or in not altering the name on the prize; and that the ABSW committee examine the points I have raised about Ms. St. Louis’ false reporting of Sir Tim Hunt most particularly her claims that he was not joking when she admits she knew in advance he suggested the joke to his hosts and was warned off it, and also, her false claim and non-retraction of the statement that Sir Tim did not praise women in science at all even when the words ‘so congratulations’ everybody appear in the audio; and her other false statements of no laughter, deadly silence, stony faces, and so forth.
I also request that the ABSW alter its false statement saying that Sir Tim Hunt has not disputed the reporting of Connie St. Louis. He did so in every statement he ever gave on the matter in the ways that I have listed in my other letter of complaint about Martin Ince. ‘What I said’ is not the equivalent to ‘all aspects of her reporting’ and Sir Tim disputes the latter in the very broadcast ABSW cites to prove its claim.
I also request that the ABSW review its procedures for Board members, and the ABSW, disclosing conflicts of interest, and issuing statements that represent the entire society without taking a vote of the membership.
I also request the ABSW apologise to Sir Tim Hunt for its false statement that he has not disputed the reporting of Connie St. Louis.