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The Silence of the Shams: #WCSJ2015 Falsely Reported Sir Tim Hunt

Professor Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s bestseller, Antifragile, contains at its start a note on ethics:

If you see fraud, and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.

 

When I read this quote, it jumped out at me; I remember gasping with surprise. This was exactly the concept I had been looking for to sum up the “reporting” of the leaders of the ‘World Conference of Science Journalists” on Sir Tim Hunt’s brief toast in Seoul.

After he’d finished, there was this deathly, deathly silence.

Very clearly, nobody was laughing – everybody was stony-faced. – Connie St. Louis, lecturer in journalism, City University, London

 

Professor Taleb, who became famous for his development of Black Swan theory and the resulting global bestseller, had been one of the earliest, strongest defenders of Sir Tim Hunt, announcing his contempt for the actions of UCL without due process, and boycotting the university under its present leadership. When Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, vindicated Sir Tim on the BBC, saying

It became a complete Twitter, media storm, completely out of proportion.. He should never have been sacked by University College, London [recording of those words below]

The long, slow vindication of the Nobel winner, whose record on women in science was one of the strongest among senior scientists, seemed complete.

But it was not quite complete. The Russian journalist and witness, Natalia Demina, had discovered a fragmentary audio she made of the end of Sir Tim’s toast. (I release it in this blog by consent, outside a paywall; the recording remains the copyright of Ms. Demina and should not be copied without her express permission.)

It remains to examine how precisely Sir Tim’s character was traduced and how his words were willfully distorted by his hosts, the WCSJ 2015 (note: NOT “kofwst” of whom more later). Some journalists and organizers present at that toast did the following:

  • Misreported Hunt’s words by omission
  • Misreported Hunt’s intent
  • Failed to correct the record
  • Sought to give false impressions of the event
  • Colluded, instead of independently reporting
  • Failed to declare their conflicts of interest
  • Failed to declare their positions as conference organizers
  • Re-tweeted attacks on Sir Tim that their own accounts contradicted
  • Attacked in gross terms the personal character of Sir Tim Hunt, including tweeting out cartoons portraying him as a racist and a misogynist
  • Tim Hunt racist comic
  • Despite saying that they opposed ‘twitter mobs’, in fact campaigned to remove him from his positions
  • In the case of Scientific American blogs, published accounts that they should have known to be false and
  • Apparently deceived fellow journalists, whom they charged money to attend their conference, about ‘keynote speaker’ Connie St. Louis, who is  described in their programme as an ‘award winning …scientist’

And of course there is the lesser species of bad journalism: shifting your grounds of reporting and defence when the evidence changes, from “He wasn’t joking” to “so what if he was joking.”

I also want to be clear that this criticism does not apply to most attendees of the conference, who were just going about their business. Also, not all of the journalists and editors who did one of these bad things, did all of these bad things. For example, Curtis Brainard, @CBrainard on Twitter, the editor of Scientific American blogs and the new President of the WCSJ for this coming year), did not actually misreport the words of Sir Tim Hunt. But, he did not correct the record, given Ms. St. Louis had misrepresented important facts, such as a ‘deathly silence’ in the room, and ‘stony faces’ in the audience, and that Deborah Blum had insisted Sir Tim was not joking. Nor did Rosie Mestel, the editor of the scientific journal, ‘Nature’. She was present. Sir Tim had praised women in science in his toast. Where was the reporting on that? ‘Congratulations, everybody…’ he says in this snippet. What immediately preceded these ‘congratulations’? Why weren’t those congratulations reported?

Ms. Mestel and Mr. Brainard  should have known that Ms. St. Louis had not told the truth and did not correct the record on the facts.

In my view it was the absolute duty of both editors to do so.

1. The original misreporting and collusion

Connie St. Louis tweeted out her now notorious “report” three hours after the luncheon. It included the alleged joke and added that Hunt said ‘keep girls single labs.’ It included nothing at all about his praise of women scientists, or a serious part of his speech praising women in science.

This tweet was boosted by others from the Pulitzer winner Deborah Blum, a year previously appointed to a journalism professorship at MIT, and Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch. These are two important journalists and many readers simply took their tweets on trust, as ‘that’s right’ witnesses to the truth of St. Louis’s account.

This was simply false reporting. In context, Sir Tim had not said “keep girls single lab”. As the editor Ms. Tan Shiow Chin of Malaysia would later report

He said men would be the worse off for it [if labs were segregated]

Furthermore, a false impression was given by these tweets. They were not spontaneous. This was not independent reporting. As Mr. Oransky would later tell his former intern from Retraction Watch, now at Buzzfeed, and as Ms. St. Louis would tell Scientific American, they had ‘gathered quotes’ to make a ‘post-hoc transcript’ and agreed that St. Louis would ‘tweet it out’ and the other two would ‘verify’ it. In that way then, Blum and Oransky are responsible for St. Louis’ tweet including the false characterization ‘keep girls’ single lab’.

UPDATE: I noticed that Blum’s own Storify admits  Sir Tim praised women in science. Going from first principles, why was this omitted from the tweet CSL broadcast and which Blum colluded in, tweeting “she’s got it right“? Blum literally chose to omit Hunt’s praise of women in science she describes herself on June 14th – 4 days later and after Hunt’s forced resignations. Ivan Oransky also tweeted ‘the three of us….gathered quotes’. Why were none of these quotes the praise of women in science described in Blum’s Storify – or the ‘congratulations, everyone’ to women scientists we can all hear in the audio clip? Please also note; Oransky and Blum both tag Curtis Brainard, editor of Scientific American blogs, in. All three were not just guests at WCSJ 2015, they were Sir Tim Hunt’s hosts as conference organizers (see below). I would advise no senior scientist to do anything for Scientific American blogs without recording the entire thing her- 0r himself.

On June 10th the BBC hosted Ms. St. Louis on the Today show. The distortion on the BBC requires a wholly separate blog. For now, here is the transcript. Readers should note how ‘I was just trying to be honest’ has been spliced out and appears in two separate places. This is a good, short blog from the transcriber on the spliced and edited audioApparent but not actual admissions were “made” by Hunt on this show, but it is as distorted as the rest of the story. Nobody should say ‘Hunt confirmed his views [of women in science] on the Today programme. He bloody did not. The BBC distorted and misreported on Hunt for more than a month, knowingly. They are still doing so today.

Because of the distorted words of Sir Tim Hunt on the BBC’s Today’, the interview was cited over and over by Blum and others. But St. Louis had been the main guest on that same show, and her interview had concentrated on the horrified reaction in the room, and the total silence with which Sir Tim’s toast was received:

Sarah Montague: Connie St. Louis, when he said this – I mean, you heard him, you were there – what was the reaction in the room?

Connie St. Louis: Well, there was a deathly silence, it was – who stands up and says “I hope the women have prepared the lunch”? “…you’d think he would get some social cues to say “Stop”, because nobody was laughing. His guests had already told him not to go down this ha-ha route, and these guys had been incredibly generous and thoughtful and inclusive by asking him to make comments at their lunch… he just carried on, digging this enormous hole…And I kept thinking: he’s going to stop – please, he’s going to stop, and he’s British, and this is just too awful and these guys are incredibly upset.

And so this – after he’d finished, there was this deathly, deathly silence.

Connie St. Louis: So he says he was being humorous and that’s fine, I – you can try and be funny but actually you should take your cues from the audience and realise that nobody thinks you’re being funny.

Connie St. Louis: And also this idea that you have single-sex laboratories, in this day and age.

Connie St. Louis: 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 –

Jennifer Rohn: Fair point.

Connie St. Louis: – you don’t go on like that.

On BBC TV, St Louis amplified her point and the BBC again reported her false story as fact:

Connie St. Louis: – Not in the slightest bit humorous. Very clearly, nobody was laughing – there was a room full of about a hundred people – nobody was laughing, everybody was stony faced.

That is the audio snippet of the end of Sir Tim Hunt’s speech. There is clear, audible laughter. It cuts out before the applause begins. Named witnesses have said the applause was sustained and they laughed and clapped throughout.

Now, there can be dispute about the meaning of words. A joke can be misunderstood. But there cannot be any dispute about something as specific as ‘After he finished, there was this deathly, deathly silence.’ ‘Nobody was laughing.’

It was not silent and they were laughing. The WCSJ 2015 honchos in the room including the editor of Scientific American, Deborah Blum of MIT, Charles Seife of NYU, Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch, Rose Mestel of Nature, DID NOT BLOW THE WHISTLE ON CONNIE ST. LOUIS’S FALSE REPORT. Why not?

On the same day the Today show broadcast Sir Tim made it clear yet again in a statement to the Guardian newspaper that he was NOT trying to mock women but only himself.

I certainly did not mean to demean women, but rather be honest about my own shortcomings.

This of course contrasts with the impression given by the false reporting of Connie St. Louis and the Today show. But, I suggest deliberately, the coterie of St. Louis- boosters left it out.

Most people would think from the “reporting” that Sir Tim had in some way made a generalized joke about women in the lab. But he did not. He made an ironic joke about his own life. The joke was not even ironic about women in general. It was ironic about Sir Tim Hunt specifically. His specialized audience in the room would have known what the general public might not, that Sir Tim had fallen in love decades ago with his lab student, who had left her then husband to marry Hunt. The couple remain married and remain scientists. His wife’s name is Professor Mary Collins; she is a distinguished immunologist; she is a Professor at UCL and on the basis of an unverified tweet they contacted her, in a sexist way, to fire him.

So in fact Sir Tim had not made remarks about women in general at all. He had made an ironic joke about his own marriage and followed it with praise of women in science, and the toast was received with applause and laughter.

ETHICAL JOURNALISM: OUT TO LUNCH. AMIRIGHT? AMIRITE???

Buzzfeed, the Daily Beast, the Associated Press, [THAT’S RIGHT – THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]

(Hunt thanked the women journalists for “making lunch” before beginning his remarks.)

and Connie St. Louis, all reported before the Today show that not only had Sir Tim seriously advocated segregation and attacked all women in science, he had even thanked the women scientists for making lunch.

Lunch amIrite J

On June 9th Ivan Oransky contacted Cat Ferguson at Buzzfeed, who was his former intern at Retraction Watch(Oh, the irony). Within the  horrible piece of “reporting” by Ferguson she quotes his email to her:

Though his comments were not recorded, several science journalists created a “post-hoc transcript,” Ivan Oransky, co-founder of the Retraction Watch blog and editorial director of MedPage Today, told BuzzFeed News by email. Another journalist who was there, Connie St Louis, who directs the science journalism program at City University, London, then tweeted the unofficial transcript:

 

Brandy Zadrozny of the Daily Beast also published a load of poorly-sourced bullshit:

Lady scientists: they’re always falling in love and crying about it. Amiright?

These reports said, as fact, that Tim Hunt ‘berated’ women, ‘called himself a misogynist’ (no report ever said he did that) and ‘thanked the women for making the lunch.’

Amiright Brandy J

This was based on Dr. Scott Watkins’ tweet, made shortly after St. Louis original one. This tweet appears in Connie St. Louis’ list of Favourites on Twitter for May 7 immediately after her own on Hunt:

Thanking the women journalists for making lunch wasn’t too great either. Bad form all around.

But none of the “journalists”, and I use the word in its loosest possible sense, had done so much as check with the tweeter to verify this single tweet. Fact checking? Who needs it, amirite?

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Now Brandy Zadrozny holds the august title of “News Librarian” at the Daily Beast. But she couldn’t bear to admit that she’d attacked Tim Hunt based on a single tweet she didn’t bother to check:

Update: An earlier version of this article quoted Hunt as thanking the women journalists “for making lunch.” Those remarks have been removed due to a possible error in translation

No no Madam “News Librarian”. It wasn’t a “possible error in translation” that caused you to remove the remarks. Tim Hunt spoke in English. It was the fact you “quoted Hunt” as doing this. Based on a single tweet. That you couldn’t be bothered to check. And then you didn’t have the basic journalistic ethics to admit to your dreadful, appalling sloppiness.

you are right that one of them didn’t appropriately correct the record

Dr. Watkins later wrote to me. You can say that again.

Deborah Blum, instead of noting that Tim Hunt didn’t ‘thank the women for making the lunch,’ tweeted

And nails the story here: Nobel Prize Winning Biologist Calls Women Love-Hungry Cry Babies

Oh sure Debs. She ‘nailed the story.’

Buzzfeed’s correction does link to the two tweets by Watkins, but even here Cat Ferguson, ex “Retraction Watch,” inappropriately excuses her own sloppy zero fact-checking:

Lunch correction buzzfeed J

Well, no. It wasn’t “reported on Twitter” nor “corrected”. In what I think is a clear journalistic ethics violation, Buzzfeed and Ferguson ascribe the false reporting and the correction to Dr. Watkins, not to Cat Ferguson. He never reported that Tim Hunt thanked the women for making his lunch. His tweet was third person. The attribution to Hunt was all the work of Ferguson, Zadrozny, and St. Louis. Watkins corrected their wrong attribution.

And as for the Associated Press…. words fail me. But the Associated Press misreporting on tweet had good company. On June 11th the New York Times would report with a string of errors, calling Tim Hunt “Mr. Hunt” instead of Sir Tim or Dr. Hunt, reporting as fact ‘the comments were received in stony silence’ and a host more. My open letter asking the New York Times for a correction is here.

THE SILENCE OF THE SHAMS

But despite Sir Tim’s clear as day statements on June 10th that he meant only to mock himself to the Guardian, nobody was listening. It seemed that Connie St. Louis, Blum et al were riding high. UCL had called Professor Collins (a real female scientist) and demanded she tell her husband to resign his honorary professorship or be sacked. Later, St. Louis would say

I do have sympathy for Hunt. Like everyone else I find the “internet tidal wave effect” horrifying.

Deborah Blum would say:

I do have sympathy for anyone caught in the leading edge of a media storm.

In point of fact, both of these had campaigned to have Hunt stripped of his honors. St. Louis tweeted at the Royal Society demanding they force him to step down, then boasted about it. Blum asked for contact with the ERC that sent Hunt to Seoul. She re-tweeted (RTed from now on) a comment suggesting that Tim Hunt be, er, stripped of his Nobel. 

On June 15th in an article published by Scientific American St. Louis must have broken her wrist slapping herself on the back:

During the flight I have a very disturbing dream.

…I turn into the arrivals lounge…It’s happy space and the ambiance is good. [sic] Suddenly, out of the blue, a pack of journalists comes rushing up to me. They’re like the ones in those old, black-an-white movie ones [sic]: men in trench coats holding large microphones, cameras and flashbulbs all poised. They are all shouting the same question: “How did you think you would get a way with publically [sic] calling to account a prominent white male scientist?

I don’t know Connie. Maybe we should all give you a medal, huh?

Importantly this story was praised by Deborah Blum as ‘And another smart take by @Connie_stlouis.’ But that is a big problem. Because in the story praised by Blum, Connie gets very very specific about how the three co-authors could ‘independently verify” their quotes. ‘Verify’ is a word Blum would use later. Journalistic ethics people!

 discussed them with a couple of colleagues, Deborah Blum and 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

But alas! Oransky was later to flatly contradict her on this important point. By now the backlash had begun. People simply did not believe that Hunt hadn’t just told a bad joke. So St. Louis is getting very specific about how she can ‘independently verify the story’ because ‘unbeknownst to each other we had written down’ what Hunt said. Compare:

 

Oransky in a podcast he recorded three days later. It wasn’t immediately broadcast and Mr. “Retraction Watch” didn’t correct the record in the meantime:

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. Er, we compared notes very quickly

The podcast has Oransky eager to say St. Louis and Blum have ‘taken the lead’:

Um, I was sitting next to Connie St. Louis, who of course is – has really taken the lead on all of this, along with Deborah

And Oransky admits now that contrary to St. Louis “reporting”

Some of them actually did laugh politely and, and applaud

So. Why didn’t you blow the whistle? Your “beat” is (excuse me while I choke on my tea) retractions and ‘ethics in science.’ You knew St. Louis had falsely written down that you took contemporaneous written notes. You knew that there was no ‘deathly silence.’ You knew ‘very clearly, nobody was laughing’ was utterly untrue. But YOU DID NOT REPORT.

Notes Oransky st louis

Blum and Oransky surely had a duty to say that this report of Connie St. Louis was, apparently, false. They did not do so. Blum even praised it as ‘another smart take’.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, TRANSPARENCY ISSUES:

Deborah Blum, Ivan Oransky, Connie St. Louis, have failed to report the full truth and not merely in their failure to report what Sir Tim really said, or to correct reports they knew were false. They did not disclose that they were not just attendees of this conference. They were organizers and keynote speakers.

Blum in the Daily Beast:

I flew to South Korea to participate in the 9th World Conference of Science Journalists. The conference had paired my lecture (Pulitzer Prize winner, 1992, beat reporting) with one by Sir Tim Hunt

It is wrong of Blum to use the passive voice here. She was on the Programme Committee of the WCSJ 2015.  I did stuff the old-fashioned way, I looked it up. Not ‘The Conference’. “We.”

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Oransky failed to disclose his massive organizer status. He is on the conference Programme Committee with Blum and he is the fourth big head on the overall conference welcome brochure.

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At no point in the story did these journalists disclose this. Why not?

Further, they were friendly with each other before and working on ‘sexism in science’ reports before the lunch. Christine Russell of MIT was there sponsored by MIT along with Blum sponsored by MIT. (How have the mighty fallen).

As a participant at the World Conference of Science Journalists last week in Seoul, I had a ringside seat for the running story of Nobel Prize-winner Sir Tim Hunt’s dismissive and offensive offhand remarks about female scientists.

This really implies she was in the room. Debbie Kennett thought so, then corrected. Was she? Russell didn’t answer me. Did she disclose she was there as Blum’s MIT partner? She did not. Where was this blog published? Why, Scientific American, that also published Connie St. Louis’s execrably written, misspelled, back-slapping blog above. The Russell blog is entitled ‘Why Tim Hunt’s comments were no joke.’ Curtis Brainard, editor of Scientific American blogs, was in the room when Sir Tim spoke. You hear the audio. It is quite clear that he was joking (listen to his tone on ‘monsters like me’. He is not calling himself a ‘monster’.

But Brainard did not blow the whistle and Scientific American published both the St. Louis and Russell blogs.

Curtis Brainard also did not declare that at that conference he was elected the President of the WCSJ 2016. In my view a massive, massive conflict of interest in publishing on the “story”. His favorites list includes this gem, published after Guy Adams forensic dismantling of the falsehoods on Connie St. Louis’s CV:

Wait, hasn’t updated her CV, therefore , , , , etc. are all mistaken? Odd logic.

Oransky and Blum ought to have declared any involvement, as should Curtis Brainard, in their selection of Connie St. Louis as a ‘keynote speaker’. She was one of three and is described in the WCSJ 2015 programme as

programme WCSJ

Connie St. Louis, award-winning freelancing [sic] broadcaster, journalist, writer and scientist

But there is no evidence Ms. St. Louis is an award-winning scientist; there is no evidence that she is a scientist. Her sole publication in the BMJ (cited as scholarly) is not made as a scientist. When you look it up, it is credited to her as a science journalist only.

Who in the WCSJ was fact-checking the bio they advertised on the expertise of their ‘keynote speaker’? Ms. St. Louis appears to have supplied this bio and nobody checked it; the same line appears on Scientific American and the Guardian. Where is the science – and where is the journalism? Fees were charged to other journalists to attend this conference.

The personal friendships and associations go way back.

Hi Deborah its your uk doppel-ganger I’m interested to see what you think about my guardian piece [St. Louis to Blum, Oct ’13]

When one journalist, instead of independently reporting, is ‘backing up’ another – itself in my view unethical  – they need to declare their interests. Nobody did this.

RTing INSULTS TO TIM HUNT THEY KNEW WERE FALSE

Ah yes: we haven’t got to Charles Seife, Professor of Journalism at NYU (yes really) who came up with this absolute classic of serious “reporting”

lying seife

“Tim Hunt is lying.” Well, somebody is lying “Professor”, but I don’t think it’s Tim Hunt. Seife in the tweet-slander-and-retract mode shows us the importance of independent journalistic reporting. He’s so emphatic: “Tim Hunt is lying.” “I was in the room.” And what has exercised Seife? Well, that Sir Tim claims the ironic joke was about his marriage “my trouble with girls” rather than the BBC’s distortion “the trouble with girls” “the trouble with women in the lab.” As Seife inadvertently points out with the vehemence of his rage, “my” trouble is different from “the” trouble. Very different. Changes the entire sense. Hence Sir Tim on June 10 “I never meant to demean women but only to be honest about my own shortcomings”.

Later Seife says he is being consistent as he thinks Hunt said ‘the’ trouble with girls. But might have got ‘my’ trouble from St. Louis’ account. It is, however, also Blum’s and Oransky’s agreed account, and Blum returns to it in her Storify of 14th June.

Seife then says he backs ‘Blum and St. Louis.’ But he cannot back both; they differ wildly. Sir Tim Hunt remained consistent; he was joking ironically not about women but himself. This is because it is easy to be consistent when you are telling the truth. When you are not telling the truth you find it hard to keep your stories straight. Seife commits ethical violations by accusing Tim Hunt of lying without evidence; and by not checking as he destroys the reputation of a wonderful and kind man who has supported women in science all his working life. He should know that the accounts of the three principals are apart. One cannot back them all. St. Louis:

They were deeply offended and didn’t get Hunt’s “jokes”. Nobody was laughing. Hunt now claims he added the words “now seriously” before going on to praise the role of women in science and in Korean society. “The words ‘now seriously’ make it very clear that I was making a joke, albeit a very bad one, but they were not mentioned in the first reports and I was deluged with hate mail,” Hunt said. He did not say this, nor did he praise the role of women in science and in Korean society. I wish he had; things would have been so much better.

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The only contemporary tweet, above, during the lunch in Seoul, contradicting St. Louis flatly

But wait! Here’s Blum much earlier on the 14th in her Storify. Note how she admits Tim Hunt praised women in science, and goes on to say he used the phraseology “MY” trouble with girls…

I talked about the importance and value of women in science. And Sir Tim also said something like that but then went onto say “But maybe I should tell you about my trouble with girls.”

Seife, meanwhile (I hesitate to spend a lot of time on a “Professor of Journalism” who will tweet out “Tim Hunt is lying” then have to immediately retract, is unethically asserting things as facts without research, that smear a Nobel-wining scientist, 72 years old with an unblemished record of support for women in science. Blum and St. Louis contradict; he says he supports their accounts but he cannot support both.

And here is where I have no hesitation in pointing out ethics violations in Deborah Blum’s “reporting”.  Her Storify account is, I believe, flat wrong. However, that is not itself an ethics violation. Charitably we can assume a very faulty memory. What IS an ethics violation is Blum, a Pulitzer Prize winner, a conference organizer who doesn’t declare it, RTing insults and accusations against Sir Tim Hunt that she knows to be false because her own account contradicts them:

Repeat. Repeat J

Yes. Repeat. Repeat,” Blum says with emphasis, pulling out a tweet that says ‘….neither him praising women and Korean women in science.’

But her own storify says that Sir Tim Hunt praised women in science! It’s right there!

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Once more, from Blum’s own damned Storify:

my trouble with girls

Sir Tim Hunt, Blum says, for still insisting it was a light-hearted joke, is a “spinner of self-protective tales.” What guff from Deborah  – Arachne herself could not compete with her on this matter. But what is she quoting? Why, she’s quoting the already-retractedTim Hunt is lying” – Blum calls it an “important tweet” which states “There was no “my” trouble with girls…. I was in the room.” But her account says “my” trouble.

Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize winner, is also tweeting out and praising Connie St. Louis Guardian account which, again, she knows to be false as it contradicts her own account:

As says & says well: Stop defending Tim Hunt. Women in science need your support more.

But Connie’s account she is here praising “says well” contains a severe insult to Sir Tim that she, Deborah Blum, knows to be factually false:

He did not praise the role of women in science and in Korean society. I wish he had; things would have been so much better.

Blum knows Sir Tim Hunt did this. Even by her own account, she knows Hunt praised women in science. But here she is boosting a false account of the facts.

So it is now more than “World Conference of Science Journalists” keeping quiet about wrongful reports, false reports, reports they knew were untrue. Now you have a principal, Deborah Blum, RTing with praise slams of Sir Tim Hunt that her own account says is untrue. I do not see how this can be spun as ‘honest mistake’ or ‘false memory’. The repellent Janice Stemwedel wrote a sanctimonious piece for Forbes without declaring that she had brutally slammed Sir Tim in a fact-free way for weeks: ‘What if Sir Tim Hunt had done it differently?’

Z Doc freeride on Twitter

“Fact-checking!” she says of Guy Adams meticulously researched piece on Connie St. Louis. ‘Maybe you could try it someday!’

(stop Janet stop, my sides are hurting. No, please. stop.)

“Also, besides Connie, Oransky and Blum, others who were THERE confirm…” – and she cites Seife’s retracted tweet calling Tim Hunt a liar.

WHAT IF Forbes prevented a partisan who cites debunked and retracted accusations as “evidence” from writing guff in their publication?

THE JOKE’S ON THE “WORLD CONFERENCE OF SCIENCE JOURNALISTS”

In my reporting I have tried to stick to named sources and original posts and tweets. But I am now going to report one anonymous comment from one of my (many) sources. Those not in the organization and upper echelon of the WCSJ – the ordinary journalists, women journalists, journalists of colour, who were present, did blow the whistle at the time. It’s just that nobody paid any attention to them. However as the controversy raged many of them became fearfully silent. One of them told me that WCSJ journalists were scared to answer questions as the WCSJ governance: (New President, Curtis Brainard) controlled who did and who did not get travel grants to WCSJ16 in San Francisco. I understand this. My testimonies that it was a clear joke with NO serious advocation of sex-segregated labs are in my previous blog. Of them all, the specific most important is, I think, Tan Shiow Chin of Malaysia so I will simply quote her witness alone on this blog:

What has not been reported, which I feel is important and adds balance to his earlier comments, is that he also added that men would be the worse off for it (if the genders were segregated).
I did laugh at his comments, because it was very obvious to me that he was saying it in a very light-hearted and joking manner. I was not offended at all, because I did not think he meant it seriously, in particular, his comments on segregating the sexes. And yes, I did applaud as well.
I did not notice my neighbours’ reactions at the table – to be honest, I had come in late from the previous session and was busy with my lunch – but I don’t remember hearing any particular comments from anyone after Tim Hunt’s little speech.
I think that the whole incident has been blown way out of proportion, and that Tim Hunt has been made a scapegoat for sexism in science. This is really sad because I don’t think he thinks that female scientists are inferior to male scientists, which seems to me to be the point of the whole situation. In addition, if you look at the programme, the parallel session that was sponsored by the European Research Council during the conference and moderated by Tim Hunt had female scientists as its both speakers – hardly the action of a real male chauvinist pig, yes?
Although the anti-Hunt coterie later shifted to “So what if it was joke,” it is so important to correct the record: at first they all pretended it was no joke and was serious.
Buzzfeed: “His support for sex-segregated labs… admitted he has a reputation as a misogynist.”
Daily Beast, Brandy Zadrozny: “Maybe lady scientists just can’t take a joke? Not sotweeted prominent science writer Deborah Blum, who wrote that Hunt doubled down when she asked him about his comments. “I was hoping he’d say it had been a joke. But he just elaborated. Sigh.” Blum’s Daily Beast piece: “NO JOKE.”  (in bold red caps) . Connie St. Louis “It wasn’t a joke … not in the slightest bit humorous.” Cristine Russell in Scientific American “Why Tim Hunt’s Sexist Comments Were No Joke”

Hunt claimed that he’d only meant to make “a self-deprecating joke,” … His wife Mary Collins, herself a prominent scientist, backed him up, but there are numerous reasons to reject this as a misunderstood-martyr’s tale.

In fact, from the very start, Hunt had several opportunities to clarify his comments .. At a hotel breakfast the day after his remarks, American journalist Deborah Blum followed up by asking him if his call for segregated labs had been a joke.

In fact Blum misreported. Sir Tim had indeed said it was a joke to her by her own account. He said he meant to be ironic. That means, a joke. Apparently seriously she tweeted ‘He did say to me he thought I’d be ok as I didn’t look the crying type.’  Christ on a bike woman, that is a joke, a joke on the same lines, a sarcastic and obvious joke. English people often say ‘Americans don’t get irony.’ Is it really conceivable Blum interpreted ‘I’d be ok as I didn’t look the crying type’ as serious?? Maybe it is; to the English nothing could be clearer, this was a joke, and if it wasn’t clear, Sir Tim bloody told her it was a joke and that he was being light-hearted and ironic. 

BEING HONEST

But Sir Tim said ‘ I meant to be honest’ about HIS OWN ’emotional entanglements’ in the lab in the joke, and maybe to Blum (we don’t know if she made a recording as she ought to have done as a journalist). His joke was rooted in honesty about his own life, his own wife – that was all he was saying. In order NOT to apply it to women in general

I certainly did not mean to demean women, but rather to be honest about my own shortcomings – Tim Hunt to the Guardian, 10th June

Sir Tim ACTUALLY made sure that he told the BBC it was about his personal life and when it came to emotion in the lab he was VERY CAREFUL not say ‘women in the lab’ but to use the gender-free “people”. When discussing emotions he also never says ‘women’ or ‘girls’. He says ‘people‘. Sir Tim and Professor Collins remain both married and both scientists. Sir Tim’s trying to explain that the joke was only about his own life and shortcomings was twisted into “further confirmation” that he disrespects women.

POSITIVE REACTION OF THE CONFERENCE HOSTS*****

[Update: sources tell blogger Thomas Baseboell that KOFWST  never claimed to be Sir Tim’s “hosts”, despite Connie St. Louis and Deborah Blum calling them that. (see base of post). They merely sponsored the lunch and it is not known if Dr. Paik was even present. Certainly KOFWST apology request refers to themselves only as sponsors. Therefore, KOFWST should no longer be referred to as Sir Tim’s “hosts”. This characterization is merely that of Deborah Blum and Connie St. Louis.  The hosts were the WCSJ 2015 and the Korea Science Journalists association]

A senior woman Korean scientist present told the EU observer “without being asked” i.e., unprompted, that ‘she was impressed Sir Tim could improvise such a warm and funny toast. Later she told [him] that the Korean women scientists present had not noticed anything amiss.’  Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the ERC, told me that he had both spoken to this scientist on the day itself and afterwards face to face in Brussels and she had “confirmed” to him how the event went.

However a week after the event, KOFWST, a sponsor of the event, sent Sir Tim a request for an apology. The English text differs from the Korean; the phrase ‘a private story told as a joke,’ in Ms. Blum’s Daily Beast piece, doesn’t appear in the Korean.

I think it would be invidious to attach any blame at all to KOFWST and their President Dr. Paik. It is not known if she was present herself at the event. They were reacting to the facts as portrayed around the globe.  The conference hosts present, Korean women scientists, clearly reacted well. Some KOFWST may not have – after all they heard the toast through translator headphones and we cannot know how it came across. Korean women scientists and other women scientists spoke out in droves in favour of Sir Tim. KOFWST understandably felt upset at the global media attention turned their way and they quoted the BBC interview which we now know – they could not have known – spliced out Sir Tim’s ‘honest’ phrase and attached it somewhere else, about emotion in the lab.

Dr. Paik therefore is not to be criticized for her apology request, nor is KOFWST. In fact Sir Tim was glad to receive it as it gave him a chance to apologize for making a joke that could have been misunderstood and more importantly to clarify his total support for women in science and Korean science. Is this, as Blum said, a “spinner of self-protective tales”? Or is it a generous apology  that focuses on women in science and the barriers they face?

I am extremely grateful to you for giving me the opportunity of apologising for my stupid and ill-judged remarks.

I am extremely sorry for the remarks made during the recent “Women in science” lunch at the WCSJ in Seoul, Korea.  I accept that my attempts at a self-deprecating joke were ill-judged and not in the least bit funny. I am mortified to have  upset my hosts, which was the very last thing I intended.  I also fully accept that the sentiments as interpreted have no place in modern science and deeply apologize to all those good friends who fear I have undermined their efforts  to put these stereotypes behind us. In my own career I have always tried to treat my colleagues with respect and kindness whoever they are and am proud to have developed and mentored the careers of many excellent young scientists who will be tackling tomorrow’s biological problems long after I have left the scene. I would like to ask that people accept my apology as heartfelt and judge me on my record.

I have tremendous respect for Korean science and scientists, and would point out that my very happy association with Korea came about through a female scientist. 

Best wishes,

Tim

What a sweetie. Is this not the model of a gracious, generous apology for saying something that could have been taken the wrong way? But still Sir Tim notes that it was meant to be a “SELF-deprecating joke” – i.e., not joking against women – and that the sentiments as interpreted would have no place in science – i.e. of course he doesn’t want sex-segregated labs!

But as to ‘not at all funny’ those who laughed and clapped would disagree with him. Ultimately, it was a brief toast in which he praised Korean women in science, congratulated them, and joked against himself in a way that was taken by some present to be a joke against women. It was willfully misreported as serious. The praise of women in his speech was denied, was left out. Reports by the principals that “nobody was laughing” and there was “a deathly silence” after he’d finished were not discredited by other journalists and editors present. Nobody declared their interests. Nobody declared they were conference organizers but presented themselves only as ‘invitees’. The brave witnesses who DID blow the whistle were utterly ignored.

KOFWST did what they thought was the right thing and Dr. Paik, head of KOFWST, very generously acknowledged Sir Tim’s immediate response. In this way, Dr. Paik really did a wonderful service to science and the truth – she published Sir Tim’s definitive statement of support for women in science and Korean scientists. Female Korean scientists present who were  conference hosts  of the lunch confirmed to the ERC they enjoyed the toast. Witnesses clapped. They laughed. They report that rather than seriously advocating sex-segrated labs he actually said labs SHOULD NOT be segregated.

He said men would be the worse off for it – Ms. Tan of Maylasia

No blame at all should attach to  KOFWST –  who had read and heard the same reports as the rest of the world – but to those WCSJ 2015 journalists present who knew Sir Tim was joking, knew there was applause and laughter, and yet reported otherwise.

Tim Hunt smilingTim Hunt jokes

If you see fraud, and do not say fraud, you are a fraud. – Nassim Taleb, AntiFragile

 

After he’d finished, there was this deathly, deathly silence. Very clearly, nobody was laughing – everybody was stony-faced. – Connie St. Louis, lecturer in journalism, City University, London

Tim Hunt Natala demina

Will the New York Times Correct Its Misreporting on Tim Hunt?

Dear New York Times,

please correct this Sir Tim Hunt article of 11th June.

It contains a number of serious errors. The reporter has stated as fact things that were merely alleged and now are proven to be false. There has also been a lack of basic fact-checking unworthy of the New York Times.

1. ‘Within minutes…’

In fact, Ms. St. Louis, by her own account later given, took 3 hours to compose and send her tweet. Prior to that there were no mentions on social media of Sir Tim’s speech that were negative, according to a search on Topsy. It is factually false that there was an immediate negative reaction. There was no negative reaction til Ms. St. Louis tweeted.

2. ‘Within minutes, the comments, which were greeted with stony silence and no little anger at the conference, spurred a global backlash.’

stony silence NYT J

The comments were not greeted with stony silence. The testimony of multiple eyewitnesses has long been out on this matter, but the New York Times has failed to correct the record. The Times newspaper this past weekend has published new audio of Sir Tim’s toast being greeted by warm laughter from his audience of female scientists and science journalists. Although the snippet of recording does not include the applause that followed the laughter, multiple eyewitnesses have gone on the record to state it was sustained applause.

The reporter took Ms. St. Louis’s words at face value and reported them as fact without an ‘alleged’. He is London based, according to his Twitter profile, and seems to have lifted the phrase ‘stony silence’ from Ms. St Louis’ accounts on BBC radio and television where she used the words ‘deathly silence’ and ‘stony faced’ respectively, as well as saying ‘Very clearly, nobody was laughing.’ 

3. ‘He elaborated on his comments that women are prone to cry when confronted with criticism.’ and ‘saying that female scientists should be segregated from male colleagues.’ 

This is unsupported by the quote that follows, where Sir Tim refers to people and not to women. Contemporary eyewitness accounts of his brief joke (an apparent reference to the distinguished immunologist Professor Mary Collins, his own wife, whom he met when she was his lab student) say that in his toast Sir Tim applied his comments about emotion equally to men and women. A Malaysian editor present was quoted in the Times as saying that Sir Tim had said ‘men would be the worse off for it’ if laboratories were segregated. This also means, of course, that the reporter’s opening statement ‘saying that female scientists should be segregated from male colleagues’ is false. Whilst the accounts of Ms. Chin and Ms. St Louis are duelling in this regard, your reporter should not have simply stated as fact what Ms. St Louis merely asserted was true.*

Although your reporter had no access to these contrary accounts, the New York Times reported as a fact what Ms. St. Louis had said was true, without any qualifying ‘alleged’ or ‘reported’. Ms. St. Louis account is now proven false in the important respect of ‘deathly silence’ greeting the toast; your wrong phrase is ‘stony silence’.

4. Lastly, and as a matter of style, your report throughout refers to Sir Tim Hunt as ‘Mr. Hunt.’ Whilst sources say that Sir Tim and Professor Collins are liberal in their politics and unlikely to be snobby, Sir Tim was awarded his knighthood precisely because he won a Nobel prize in 2001. His title is not ‘Mr. Hunt.’ It is ‘Sir Tim Hunt’. This matters in respect of your report, in that it illustrates how very little, if any, fact-checking your reporter did before producing it.

I request a correction.

Yours sincerely,

Louise Mensch 

*[readers wishing to join me in requesting a correction should email nytnews@nytimes.com. The blog text in italics was not in my email; I have just realised this error; I will write again suggesting this too be corrected,]

Tim Hunt Natala demina

The Tim Hunt Reporting Was False. Royal Society, Please Give Him Due Process

Trisha Greenhalgh J

If you are a scientist or academic, please email, with your name and university,

Paul.Nurse@royalsociety.org, Michael.arthur@ucl.ac.uk

and ask them to, at the very least, state publicly that there is no evidence Sir #TimHunt ever made a sexist joke, or is a sexist.

Maria Leptin J

Tim Hunt Natala demina

Sir Tim Hunt Was Misreported. Here’s How

My first blog on the shameful treatment of the Sir Tim Hunt, FRS, Nobel Laureate, 72, demonstrated how a couple of his peers pre-judged him as a sexist over a Twitter storm, before he could speak a word in his own defence.

This blog will, I hope, demonstrate how the initial portrayal of Sir Tim was based on partial, false reporting. It contains an on the record statement from Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the ERC that he had eyewitnesses plural report to him on the day of the lunch that Sir Tim had praised women in science and been warmly received: that he personally spoke both on the phone, and later face to face, with a Korean woman organizer of the conference, and she had given him “explicit confirmation” of the speech’s praise of women and warm reception.

It also contains, below, testimonies from named journalist eyewitnesses who all flatly contradict Connie St. Louis’ account.

Sir Tim Hunt was a guest of honour on June 8 at a luncheon held in honour of women scientists and engineers at a conference in Seoul.

zzzz science journalists hunt J

the only contemporary tweet during the lunch in Seoul 

Connie St. Louis Reports a Serious Attack on Women; Says Sir Tim Hunt Argued In Earnest That Labs Should Be Segregated

After this luncheon, Ms. St. Louis sent her now-notorious tweet accusing Sir Tim of having seriously insulted women in science, and seriously argued for sex-segregated laboratories.

CSL tweet

Ms. St. Louis went on the UK’s most listened-to programme, the Today Show on Radio 4. She was very insistent that Sir Tim had not been joking in any way, and that he was definitely advocating segregated laboratories.

Sarah Montague: Connie St. Louis, when he said this – I mean, you heard him, you were there – what was the reaction in the room?

Connie St. Louis: Well, there was a deathly silence, it was – who stands up and says “I hope the women have prepared the lunch”? “I’m a male chauvinist pig”. And at that point, you’d think he would get some social cues to say “Stop”, because nobody was laughing…these guys had been incredibly generous and thoughtful and inclusive by asking him to make comments at their lunch. …And I kept thinking… this is just too awful and these guys are incredibly upset.

And so this – after he’d finished, there was this deathly, deathly silence.

When Sir Tim later told the Guardian that his joke was meant to be sending up sexism, not women, and that it was misreported:

Crucially, Hunt said, he then added the words, “now seriously” before going on to praise the role of women in science and in Korean society. “The words ‘now seriously’ make it very clear that I was making a joke

Connie St. Louis was not having any of it. STOP DEFENDING SIR TIM HUNT, she wrote, also in the Guardian. He was NOT joking and he had absolutely not praised women in science or in Korea. If only that were true!

During Hunt’s outburst, the female Korean scientists and engineers were stunned and confused…Nobody was laughing. Hunt now claims he added the words “now seriously” …He did not say this, nor did he praise the role of women in science and in Korean society. I wish he had; things would have been so much better.

The EU Observer’s Report is Leaked

An internal report by an EU Observer (it is standard practice to write these up at such events, President Bourguinon told me) then leaked to the Times. It contained this ‘rough transcript, as best as I can remember.’ and a reaction in the room totally different from Connie St. Louis description:

‘It’s strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists. Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls?’ Now seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without doubt an important role in it. Science needs women and you should do science despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.”

The official added: “Sir Tim didn’t ‘thank women for making lunch. I didn’t notice any uncomfortable silence or any awkwardness in the room as reported on social and then mainstream media.”

The official added that his neighbour, a woman from the Korean National Research Council of Science and Technology and an organiser of the conference, responded positively. “Without being asked, she said she was impressed that Sir Tim could improvise such a warm and funny speech (her words). Later she told me that all other Korean lunch participants she talked to didn’t notice or hear anything peculiar in Sir Tim’s speech.”

This, of course, backed up what Sir Tim had said from day 1. At first, Blum and Oransky did not deny the extra words and context when it put to them by the Times. I suggest that Blum’s reactions on twitter show that she was afraid there was a tape.

‘Can you confirm or refute this claim? The added context is important,’ she’s asked on Twitter the day before the times published.

It’s got some of the right elements but it’s not precisely what he said. It’s more polished.’

A fellow journalist at the lunch, Nataliya Demina of Russia, had challenged St. Louis’ and Blum’s account all along and did so again:

verified J

‘Verified by many?’ Deborah Blum was sitting right next to him.

But as it becomes clear that there’s no tape recording, Connie St. Louis and Deborah Blum, and their allies, go back on the attack. ‘Not a transcript! Not an official report! Complied late! Proves nothing!’

Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the ERC, And Journalist Eyewitnesses Contradict St. Louis’ And Blum’s Account

I then do some fact-checking. There was one official document, the first, on the 10th June: a statement from the ERC President that was on the record.

President of the European Research Council on June 10th

Sir Tim Hunt has already apologised and explained that his impromptu comments were meant to be “light-hearted” and “ironic”, and that it was not his intention to demean women. In his main speech he was very supportive towards women in science and he said that he hoped there was nothing that barred women from science.

I can also add that during the time I have worked with him on the ERC Scientific Council he has only ever been a supporter of gender balance.

The ERC’s clear view is that women and men are equally able to perform frontier research at the highest level. This is the core of the ERC Gender Equality Plan, first endorsed in 2010 and revised in 2014. The plan is fully supported by the entire Scientific Council, including Sir Tim. The plan is available on the ERC website.

So…. being an ex-politician, as well as a journalist, I know that it is very difficult for political bodies to release documents, like the observer’s report, they have tried to suppress. I ignore the EU observer report because it is off the record, and I ask questions about the document which is on the record. For one thing, its date is closer to the speech – 10th June, when Connie St. Louis was talking to Today about the ‘deathly silence’ in the room.

I asked M. Bourguignon why he made the assertion that he did on June 10th that Sir Tim was in fact “very supportive to women in science.” He replied:

I based the relevant part of my June 10 statement on the testimonies of eye witnesses. These were confirmed by other testimonies that surfaced later.

7. As I recalled in the statement, gender balance has been an issue the Scientific Council has been concerned about for a long time and remains to be highly concerned with. A number of measures have been put in place, e.g. the plan quoted in the statement. All those required votes of the ERC Scientific Council, and Sir Tim always supported these pro-active actions.

Your question 7 has also another dimension, namely Sir Tim’s availability to interact with other researchers, in particular young ones, female and male of course. It is well known to very many people that, among people of his distinction, Sir Tim is exceptionally keen of talking both to audiences or to individuals about his experience and answering all kinds of question. This is precisely why I chose him to accompany two women ERC grantees to attend the very special conference in Seoul.

M. Bourguignon is clear – he heard at the time from eyewitnesses plural and confirmed it later that Sir Tim’s main speech was ‘very supportive to women in science.’

Could he shed any light on the claim that a Korean woman host had agreed with Nataliya Demina’s testimony that Tim Hunt was warmly received in the room? This was important as the head of the organization had belatedly, after the media storm, demanded an apology ‘on behalf of all women scientists in Korea and around the world’. She was contradicted by a female former pupil of Sir Tim’s, Professor Hyunsook Lee of Seoul University, who said ‘This does not sound like Tim at all’ and ‘he never treated me like a female scientist.’ If a Korean woman host present HAD INDEED praised the speech at the time, and testified to its warm reception, then the ‘apology demand’ would be so much guff from somebody who wasn’t there –  speaking on behalf of others.

Amazingly,  President Bourguignon stood up to be counted on this matter, too, and he delivered a genuine bombshell: not only had he received a verbal report on the day itself that corresponded with the contents of the written report, he had personally spoken to the Korean host himself in Brussels, face-to-face, and she confirmed the leaked account. A staffer had conveyed the reaction in the room of one of the Korean women hosts

who was present
and to whom I could speak later face-to-face (she
came later to Brussels) and get explicit confirmation of
how the event went”

Wow.

Just to recap: the leaked report said:

“Without being asked, [the Korean female host] said she was impressed that Sir Tim could improvise such a warm and funny speech (her words). Later she told me thatall other Korean lunch participants she talked to didn’t notice or hear anything peculiar in Sir Tim’s speech.”

So now we aren’t in the territory of unconfirmed, off the record reports any more. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the European Research Council, confirmed that day and face to face in Brussels later that this was the truth of poor Sir Tim’s lunch.

Before I got this bombshell email on Monday morning I had spent some time gathering evidence from other eyewitnesses. The Filipino journalist Timothy Dincali had taken this picture on his Facebook page on the day of the speech, at first captioning it just “Tim Hunt” on 8th June. Only as the controversy developed did he feel the need to change the caption to note he snapped the photo “at the very moment” Tim made the joke

UPDATE: New photo by journalist eyewitness Natalia Demina. remind yourselves: Connie St. Louis said ‘he wasn’t joking at all’ ‘everybody was stony faced’; Deborah Blum wrote ‘Before his attempts to pass it of as humour he told his co-panelist something else entirely’ ‘I asked him if he was joking and he just elaborated. Sigh’

Tim Hunt Natala demina

Tim Hunt was like a rabbit who came to a dark forest with wolfes. Next time let him take a dictophone and a videocamera – Nataliya Demina, Russian science journalist

In Timothy Dimacali’s photo, Sir Tim can be seen smiling, as can a Korean woman. Connie St. Louis can be seen with her translation earpiece still in her ear. She’s not looking at Sir Tim. A TV interview she gave to France 24 states that at first she didn’t even know who was talking. ‘

joking tim

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

But other journalists present were paying a lot more attention than Connie – even ones who thought the joke was inappropriate (such as Dincali), as well as those who were not at all offended:

Timothy Dincali:

As I keep telling people, he said it in a very lighthearted manner with no outward hint of malice, condescension, or derision…. I’m not surprised nobody had their recorders out. The luncheon was a very laid-back affair, and Hunt’s remark was just one of those usual bits of light banter made at the start to usher in the event while waiting for food. In Hunt’s case, it seems he was too laid back for his own good

Was it followed by praising women in science? Deborah Blum insisted that Hunt had praised women in science (sorry Connie) but afterwards gone on to be insulting and argue for sex-segregated labs:

Timothy Dincali

No – the joke came ahead of everything else. That much I’m certain of

Nataliya Demina, Russia: (female)

So for me his speech during the Lucheon was a real joke. I can’t help
people who felt offended. I didn’t even pay much notice at what he
said, I laughed and applauded as my neighbors at the table, and I was
surprised to know what a scandal arraised afterwards.

I was suprised that his critics didn’t publish his whole speech.
Connie St Loius published only the beggining as if Tim didn’t speak
anything else and she said that everybody in the Lucheon Hall was
offended. It wasn’t true. Many people laughed, because Tim also
laughed. Debora Blum rearranged the beginning and the end. I remember
that Tim joked in the beginning and then he said serious things about
the conference and about his lecture.

Pere Estupinya, Spain (male)

I don’t remember Tim Hunt’s exact works, but he said something positive about women scientists after his awful joke …. I mean: he definitely made the famous comments. He made them in an humoristic tone. …Then he said some positive words towards women.

Tan Siow Chin, Maylasia (female)

What has not been reported, which I feel is important and adds balance to his earlier comments, is that he also added that men would be the worse off for it (if the genders were segregated).
I did laugh at his comments, because it was very obvious to me that he was saying it in a very light-hearted and joking manner. I was not offended at all, because I did not think he meant it seriously, in particular, his comments on segregating the sexes. And yes, I did applaud as well.
I did not notice my neighbours’ reactions at the table – to be honest, I had come in late from the previous session and was busy with my lunch – but I don’t remember hearing any particular comments from anyone after Tim Hunt’s little speech.
I think that the whole incident has been blown way out of proportion, and that Tim Hunt has been made a scapegoat for sexism in science. This is really sad because I don’t think he thinks that female scientists are inferior to male scientists, which seems to me to be the point of the whole situation. In addition, if you look at the programme, the parallel session that was sponsored by the European Research Council during the conference and moderated by Tim Hunt had female scientists as its both speakers – hardly the action of a real male chauvinist pig, yes?

And did Sir Tim sit down to “stony silence” as Connie St. Louis insisted, having shocked all his Korean hosts? Well President Bourginon has confirmed that last bit was utterly false face-to-face with the Korean woman host thought Sir Tim’s speech was warm and funny. So do journalists Nataliya and Tan Siow Chin.

Opinions differed as to whether the joke was inappropriate or not. The Korean woman organizer and the Russian and Malaysian journalists all laughed; the men were more critical, including the Spanish and Australian and Filipino witnesses cited here – but nobody has said that Sir Tim was not joking. Without exception eyewitnesses have said he was joking and that he praised women in science AFTER the joke, not, as Blum claimed, before it. Mocking himself then praising women? Absolutely.

But let’s get down to the awful suggestion of sex-segregated labs – Connie and Deborah and Ivan of the ironically named ‘Retraction Watch’ all backed each other in the account that this was a genuine argument. No mention of ‘but men would be worse off’ and then the praise of women in science.Wouldn’t people be up in arms at such a suggestion?

Timothy Dincali was explicit: Nobody on his table had complained or discussed it for the whole rest of the lunch.

But what about the deadly, deadly silence? That’s not a matter of interpretation, is it? Either everybody was shocked, and silent as Sir Tim sat down, or they were not.

So was Connie at least accurate about the horrified reaction in the room?

Sarah Montague: Connie St. Louis, when he said this – I mean, you heard him, you were there – what was the reaction in the room?

Connie St. Louis: Well, there was a deathly silence, ……. after he’d finished, there was this deathly, deathly silence.

Spoiler: NO. NO SHE WAS NOT.

Dr, Scott Watkins (a critic of Hunt)

there was probably some polite applause, and it’s possible that some of the people did laugh with him at some of the comments.

Timothy James Dincali

there was a clear, definite applause immediately after he spoke. It was a polite applause, to be sure, but not a gentle nor quiet kind of applause. And it couldn’t have been misinterpreted as being for some other speaker precisely because it happened just as he sat down.

There was laughter and there was applause. Whether or not there were any misgivings in the audience about his remarks, the fact was that there was definite laughter and applause. Could it have been that the audience was simply being polite about it? Perhaps. But they definitely did not sit in stony silence.

He certainly did NOT sit down to stony silence. Putting aside whatever misgivings people might have had with his words immediately after, I can say with absolute certainty that the rest of the lunch proceeded normally.

Pere Estupinya

there were the typical applauses after his intervention, that was at least three to four minutes long….

….when he finished, there was the conventional applause after any intervention. It would have ben weird (and noticeable) if not….

Nataliya Demina

I am surprised to read Connie’s answers, as if we were at different luncheons. Many people smiled and applauded! I saw words about deadly silence and stone faces in CSL piece… that wasn’t true, people reacted quite differently. There are several eyewitnesses who also laughed and applauded as me, no deadly silence at all

Tan Siow Chin

I did laugh at his comments…. and yes, I did applaud as well.

So we now have debunked:

1. Connie St Louis – “Nobody was laughing – everybody was stony faced – when he finished, there was a deathly, deathly silence.” This is, quite simply, false on its face.

2. The President of the Korean Federation of who said all her members were scandalized – both Professor Hyunsook Lee and the female Korean conference host at the actual event totally contradict that issued statement days later. The Korean woman present spoke personally to the president of the ERC to confirm her view of Sir Tim’s speech, and of course, that no other Korean women she spoke to present noticed anything amiss:

3. Deborah Blum’s Storify account that Sir Tim opened with some praise of women but then finished only some jokes against them. Every other eyewitness says it was the other way round. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President, ERC, confirms on the record that he received oral eyewitness accounts plural that day of Sir Tim’s support for women scientists in that speech.

But what remains? Well, the rest of Blum’s storify – namely, that Sir Tim did really think that women were too emotional etc etc  – as opposed to his personal romantic problems (a lab romance is how he met his wife, Professor Mary Collins. But Blum knew what Sir Tim had said was controversial the day before, so where is her recording?

Tim talks

This photo was taken when I was asking him if he was joking, Blum said. Yes, I can certainly see who is joking and who is serious here Debs, you pillock (British term; non-gendered insult). Blum repeatedly claims the photographer Kathryn O’ Hara ‘backs’ and ‘confirms’ her account. She does not; she merely  took the photograph. Nor was O’Hara even present at the original lunch.

Blum should have produced a contemporary recording and transcript. Frankly, if she brought one up now I wouldn’t believe it.

(Somebody pointed me to a YouTube video of one of Sir Tim’s other lectures. He is frankly a bit of an old sweetie. And it seems he uses irony pretty often as a rhetorical device “And then a wonderful thing happened,” he says in the speech. “The lab burned down.” )

Sir Tim Hunt’s reported comments, as a serious attack on women in science, and an argument for sex-segregated labs – shocking everybody in the room, scandalizing his hosts, received in deathly silence,   were indeed dreadful – but nobody bothered to fact check if the reports were true. They were not true. They were false. 

And nobody bothered to ask any of the most very basic common sense questions:

1. If Sir Tim despised women in science so much, why would he agree to be the guest of honour at their lunch?

2. How likely is it that a British man of 72 would seriously attack his hosts before a lunch?

3. Had the guy ever asked for a single-sex lab in his entire life?

4. What was the conference programme, was he doing anything for women at the goddamned conference, such as agreeing to be guest of honour at the ‘Women Scientist/Engineer lunch’ and as the female Maylasian scientist points out, moderating a session to highlight two women scientist speakers?

If you look at the programme, the parallel session that was sponsored by the European Research Council during the conference and moderated by Tim Hunt had female scientists as its both speakers – hardly the action of a real male chauvinist pig, yes?

5. If Sir Tim despised “women in the lab” so much why did he marry Professor Mary Collins?

6. Sir Tim was there as representative of the ERC. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon told me three times that since 2010 he had been working on and voting for its ERC Gender Equality Plan – five years of work.

Professor Hyunsook Lee’s mentor has obviously done more for women in science in the last five years than his critics have done in a lifetime. He got a creche installed at the Okinawa Institute.

He hasn’t yet been as successful in his fight to get one installed in the Crick Institute but, he says, he will keep fighting.

The head of the Crick is Sir Paul Nurse, who – coincidentally – is also the President of the Royal Society,

Time to consider the new evidence, UCL and The Royal Society – isn’t that what scientists do?

And lastly for those Tim Hunt attackers with any shame whatsoever here he is on the ERC website fighting breast cancer for ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’. Tim Hunt not only fighting for the ERC’s gender equality plan and for creches in Okinawa and the Crick – he’s fighting for Breast Cancer awareness AND, er, fighting ACTUAL BREAST CANCER. You know, fighting for women’s lives. 

1. The European Research Council already funds several projects related to breast cancer. Can you tell us what the ERC’s added-value is in this  field?

The ERC aims to support excellent scientists who propose excellent projects with an investigator-driven or “bottom-up” approach. Research funding from the ERC supports basic research that is higher risk than the work supported by specialist funding agencies with longer time-lines. It has therefore the potential to be of greater benefit in terms of providing major novel discoveries that could lead to new insights and ultimately to cures. There have been excellent examples of this in breast cancer research. In former times, the only treatment for breast cancer was surgery, and the main area of research simply concerned how much tissue to cut out. There was almost no understanding of the fundamental causes of breast cancer. This is exactly where the ERC’s added-value now stands for as it funds excellent basic research in many fields, including Life Sciences.

Oh shut the hell up about Breast Cancer Sir Tim! Women don’t need you! Go away! You made a joke about your own wife! Report to the nearest police station! We have plenty of Nobel-prize winning cancer scientists, ten a penny, they are!  It’s not as if you write for Buzzfeed, is it?

Lunch correction buzzfeed J

PS: I shall write a separate blog on all the falsehoods and inconsistencies in the BBC Today Show’s reporting, which put words he didn’t say in Sir Tim’ mouth and edited ‘I was only being honest’ to make it apply to something else – and in Deborah Blum’s, Charles Seife’s, and Connie St. Louis’ accounts – but to have listed everything here would have been to bog down the main point: the President of the ERC contradicts Connie St. Louis’ versions of events, and so does the Korean woman host of the lunch and multiple eyewitnesses.

And so does Sir Tim Hunt’s record of support for women – not that any of the twitterstorm rushing to judgement gave a flying **** about that. Look! Vagenda’s got a hashtag! Who needs fact-checking?

Well, I guess I like to do things in a slightly more old fashioned way, you know, like finding witnesses and colleagues and asking them questions. 

They taught me that at Oxford. You might call it “data journalism”. As in – get some data.

The “feminist” who lobbied the Royal Society to strip Sir Tim Hunt of his committee position, Dorothy Bishop, is very much against making jokes about women, because, as she said of Sir Tim “You don’t need to be a decent human being” to be an FRS.

So Professor Dorothy Bishop, FRS, I’ll just leave this one here, shall I?

zzzz In love with him t hunt

due process J

The Royal Society’s ‘Diversity Committee’ Pre-Judged #TimHunt. Now UCL Should Give Him Due Process

Imagine the scene: you are a distinguished female scientist, a Professor and an employee of the college you work for, University College, London. You have a blameless employment record and have served your employer – and its students – with distinction for many years.

Suddenly you receive a call from a senior representative of your employer, pressurizing you about the actions of your spouse – actions you have nothing to do with, and do not understand as yet, because he is unable to speak for himself, as he is traveling back home from the far side of the world.

Your employer’s representative gives you a message for your spouse; he must resign, or he will be sacked. Your employer places you in the middle of its workplace drama with somebody else, a drama which, as a female scientist, you had nothing to do.

What a terrible, stressful suggestion – from your place of work – pass on its threat of public humiliation, without due process, to your beloved husband, an old man of 72, whom they are not allowing to come home and speak to them first.

That is what University College London apparently did to Professor Mary Collins; and the man said to have made the call is the Dean of Life Sciences, Professor Geraint Rees. Certainly he publicly tweeted about ‘taking action’ and ‘establishing facts’ on her husband before the University spoke to Sir Tim.

I don’t know if Professor Rees is in any way a superior to Professor Collins in the academic hierarchy. But why did UCL ask a woman employee to involve herself in its threats to the reputation of a member of her family? Is that not creating a hostile work environment?

I’d call that sexist, UCL. I’d call that bloody sexist. And if it happened, I don’t see how it can be either legal, or consistent with UCL policy towards paid employees.

What made this worse was that Professor Rees’s colleagues in academia, Professor David Colquhoun and Professor Dorothy Bishop*, had pre-judged Professor Collins’ husband and were actively campaigning to get him disciplined at the Royal Society and UCL – over a lie, and without fact-checking.

On Jun 7th Sir Tim Hunt was asked to say a few words at a luncheon speech in Seoul where he was supporting a conference of science journalists.

This speech included a self-deprecating joke about his own (factual) romance in the lab. It was not a joke about women scientists at all; it was a joke about his own romantic ineptitude, and it mocked sexist attitudes by saying “Now, seriously…” showing that the prior joke was irony, or sarcasm.

As is well known, Sir Tim and his wife, Professor Collins, met when she was his lab student and already married;  she left her former husband for Sir Tim; they remain married –  and they remain scientists.

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls? Now, seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without doubt an important role in it. Science needs women, and you should do science, despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.”

In his professional life Sir Tim Hunt has an active record of mentoring and promoting women that have been his students. He has never asked for single-sex labs or advocated for them. Eminent female scientists that have studied under him, including Professor Hyunsook Lee, Professor of Biological Sciences at Seoul Unversity, have come forward to say so.

On Jun 7th, journalist Connie St Louis tweeted a partial account of Sir Tim’s words leaving out “Now seriously….” and his praise of women in science. She insisted that he was deadly serious and had not praised the role of women in science. She also stated Sir Tim had ‘thanked the women present for making the lunch because that was their role’

Some journalists present, like Deborah Blum, backed her account in tweets. Others denied it.

I shall write a separate blog on the unethical and false reporting of this event by Connie St Louis, Deborah Blum, Charles Seife, and others; but the academics come first – they are meant to be evidence-based scientists, not political campaigners.

At this point Sir Tim Hunt, who was doubtless bewildered, had made no statements to the press at all that were made public.

On June 9th, before Sir Tim Hunt had been able to speak to his university, University College London, or any statement from him had been broadcast, three Professors – two with affiliations to UCL and one to the Royal Society were – without even speaking to Sir Tim – plotting to deprive him of his honours without due process of any kind. It is VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE that they did so BEFORE his comments to Radio 4’s “Today” Show were broadcast.

They are: Professor David Colquhoun, Professor Dorothy Bishop – both of the “Diversity Committee” of the Royal Society, i understand – and Professor Geraint Rees.

[Edit – Professor Bishop has commented below and I have replied to her. She isn’t – thank God – on the Royal Society’s Diversity Committee – but she used it as the weapon for the smear campaign she waged on Sir Tim before he had said a word. As detailed here, she lobbied Professor Rees of UCL against him and she lobbied Colquhoun against him. I have removed statements that she is on the committee – she simply used the committee, via Colquhoun, demanding he be taken off his post where as her Royal Society colleague he serves. Again and again she is cited by Colquhoun for her demand that Sir Tim be forced out of the Royal Society’s committee – and UCL’s.]

Here is my evidence that all three pre-judged Sir Tim based on no evidence and without speaking to him: that they actively campaigned for the deprivation of his honorary posts.

comments made

This is unjust –  and academically unsound. “Science needs women” is an ironic comment, given that “Science needs women” were words Tim Hunt also said at that lunch. Dorothy Bishop suggests “WE ask that he not be on ….committees given his views.” What views? She cannot know them; at this stage she has only an unverified tweet contradicted by other witnesses.

“Am establishing facts,” Professor Rees says. How could he do so, without having spoken to Sir Tim Hunt? “And will consider further action when known.”

But the facts were NOT known and COULD NOT have been known without speaking to Sir Tim.

“Can the diversity committee respond to this?” says one Clare Burrage, tagging in Professors Colquhoun and Bishop and showing them the tweet of St. Louis. “OMG, how very disappointing,’ says Colquhoun, tagging in @UTAFrith. “Are you referring to #Huntgate?”

Cool hashtag bro. You’re so hip.

Colquhoun immediately tweets to another person. I suggest that he is clearly lobbying: “I think we can expect statements soon from @RoyalSociety and @ucl (where Hunt has hon appt) about Huntgate.” He then links to a Royal Society statement of distance; presumably he and the “Diversity Committee” have demanded it. A woman scientist tweets to Colquhoun “Did he really say it?” Colquhoun says, tellingly “I fear he may have. We are on the job.” On the job, Detective Professor? What, without a word from the accused?

On the Job J

“It’s totally contrary to the beliefs of @royalsociety and @ucl… not that I speak for either.” “Good!” Colquhoun exults, RTing a Royal Society tweet to Connie St Louis saying “Tim Hunt’s comments don’t reflect our views.”

How could the Royal Society know what Tim Hunt’s comments were? But let’s get back to the busy, busy anti-Hunt campaign by powerful member of the Royal Society’s Diversity Committee, Professor David Colquhoun, UCL. “The Royal Society is quick off the mark dissociating itself from Hunt’s dreadful comments #Huntgate.”

But his fellow Royal Society  member, Professor Dorothy Bishop, is not satisifed with the public shaming over a misreported joke about Prof. Hunt’s love life, and is using the Diversity Committee as her weapon. Again, at this stage Sir Tim Hunt had made NO reported comments to the press WHATSOEVER: “Not sure it’s enough. In five minutes or so Hunt has undermined all RS is trying to do on diversity. Need statement from Nurse.”

UCL Nurse J

That’s Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, who joked that he wanted labs to be “marriage bureaus” and science students to fall in love and marry for visas. This wasn’t a view of the interview he discouraged: Nurse tweeted it out from the official Crick account. Can you say…… #DistractinglySexy?

Crick Nurse Sexy J

But I digress… Sir Paul’s cunning and #DistractinglySexy Crick laboratory has “distracted” me from the pre-judging campaign waged by Bishop and Colquhoun against a gentle old man, their distinguished colleague, who has supported women scientists all his working life, without the courtesy of speaking to him.

We are still before any comments made by Sir Tim Hunt.

“Well said, @girlinterruptin,” continues Colquhoun to the Oxonian scientist, linking to her blog. “Tim Hunt has no support. I expect more statements tomorrow.”

He and Bishop are a bit more open about how they are lobbying against Hunt, before speaking to him, and on the basis of a misleading, partial report, in the comments below this blog – before the Radio 4 Today Show was broadcast. Dorothy Bishop, FRS,  also says of Sir Tim Hunt, FRS, at that moment, still her colleague at the FRS and still on a committee of the Royal Society, “there is no requirement you be a decent human being.”

Let’s take a pause here: Bishop says Tim Hunt is not a decent human being, before he has made any comment whatsoever.

Bishop and Hunt Colquhoun human J

Into the pre-judgement, no-due-process fray, we now welcome Professor Geraint Rees, Dean of Life Sciences at University College London; who obliges Professor Colquhoun’s campaign with a tweet saying UCL rejects the “alleged views”. For good measure he too tags in @RoyalSociety – I expect at the explicit request of either or both of Professors Colquhoun and Bishop, but can’t be sure.

Wooh! An “alleged”!

But Professor David Colquhoun is certainly not going to allow a little disclaimer like “alleged” spoil his fun with Tim Hunt: “Very glad to see my dean coming out swinging on the Hunt affair,” he crows.

Coming out swinging.

Nobody has heard from, or spoken to, Sir Tim Hunt.

:Dean swinging J

But see! What light from yonder window breaks? Why, ’tis the Today Show on Radio Four and its producer Tom Feilden, who is has read the unpleasant comments calling Hunt not a decent human being and demanding the removal of his committee memberships before speaking to him.

‘Will you give me a call?” he asks of Bishop and Colquhoun. He also seeks comment from @UTAfrith. Amazingly, he did not ask @Demna25 to comment, as she was tweeting what a total absurdity Connie St Louis account of the event was. Feilden did not approach any defenders of Sir Tim Hunt on Twitter.

“Just called but you weren’t there,” says Colquhoun, although he obviously reaches Feilden later. Next, David Colquhoun approvingly cites as evidence of Tim Hunt’s wickedness a Buzzfeed piece that had to be retracted:

Tim Hunt did not say “Thanks to the women journalists for making lunch.” This was reported on Twitter, but was later corrected to note that it was said by a female politician. Jun. 10, 2015, at 7:59 a.m.

And in possibly his greatest hit, Professor David Colquhoun, University College London, Fellow of the Royal Society, “Diversity Committee” of the Royal Society, calls Sir Tim Hunt, 72, FRS, UCL (at that moment) a “misogynist.”

A misogynist. A person who hates women. Sir Tim Hunt.

Misogynistic Hunt Colquhoun J

I had a look. He’s edited it. Facebook preserves the edit history:

Yesterday saw a disaster for the advancement of women. Tim Hunt is reported to have made appallingly misogynistic comments about female scientists. The best report so far is on Buzzfeed

That would be the Buzzfeed “report” that Sir Tim Hunt “thanked women scientists for making his lunch” based on mis-read tweet which they retracted. Two days later Colquhoun added:

As a member of the Royal Society’s diversity committee, I feel pretty angry about his daft views. I’ve heard nothing like them for many decades. They have set back our work, temporarily.

In the comments underneath his post, Professor Colquhoun comes up with some KILLER evidence of what an UTTER WOMAN-HATING BASTARD Tim Hunt is:

Ice bucket challenge J

“Here you can see Tim Hunt tipping a bucket of ice water over his (very successful) wife”

Yes, that’s right, the married scientists had entered the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS. WHAT A PROPER PAIR OF [GENDERED INSULTS]!

At this point I am suspecting Professor Colquhoun doesn’t get out much.

But Tom Feilden of Radio 4 having solicited opinions only from arch-critics of Hunt has now got an interview up. I have asked the BBC many questions about this interview. I have received background partial answers which I cannot quote, and have requested on-the-record answers.

Here, however, is a summary:

In the piece, the presenter opens the segment by stating as a fact that Sir Tim Hunt said words he did not say, in an order he did not say them. She notes with sarcasm that Sir Tim had said he was joking and being ironic.

This was the first time the world had heard any statement at all that Tim Hunt was not only joking but joking ironically, that is, sending up himself, not sending up women.

However, the Today show does not broadcast Tim Hunt’s speech in his own defence, explaining what he meant by the joke and the irony of it. That is a basic, fundamental requirement of an impartial state broadcaster. It has never put those words or quotes online.

She then moves to a quote from Hunt, where he talks about emotion and crying without mentioning women at all. It ends “I only meant to be honest, really.”

Unchallenged, Connie St. Louis and Jennifer Rohn are allowed both to give negative views on Hunt and present, in the case of St. Louis, falsehoods as facts. St. Louis’s lies are so voluminous they require a separate blog, and I refer here to the lies in her account, not the lies on her CV. Rohn is the author of a “Lab-Lit” romance called “Experimental Heart” described by Science magazine’s reviewer, an oncologist, as an “accurate” portrayal of the “familiar” world of “dark-room romance.”

Ho-hum.

This broadcast, however, spliced the words “I was only being honest” away from where Sir Tim actually said them and put them after comments about crying (where women aren’t mentioned) to make it appear “I was just trying to be honest” referred to his views on women rather than about his own life. A later BBC audio of Sir Tim shows he clearly refers to his own life (as his joke did) and ends with the same words “I was just trying to be honest” – that is, about himself, not women in science.

bloggers all hours DC R4 hunt J

David Colquhoun then won the victory for which he had so ardently been lobbying. Tellingly, he said it “would have been sooner” “had he not been on a plane back from Korea.” Note his use of the word “job”, something he later denies Sir Tim had (after the backlash starts).

Tim Hunt resigned from his hon job J

The Today show audio was partial at best. “I was only being honest” appears to have been wrongly placed. At my university, Oxford, we were taught to examine primary sources and challenge assumptions. At the very least, it was clear on June 10th that there was more Sir Tim had told the BBC as the presenter referred to it “he claims he was joking“. But UCL did not ask Sir Tim. The Royal Society, whose President Sir Paul Nurse had made a much more #distractinglysexy joke about the Crick lab, did not ask Sir Tim.

Instead, it appears, Professor Geraint Rees, who had publicly stated he was “establishing the facts” and would take more action “when known” (they were not) – allegedly called Professor Mary Collins, an actual employee of University College London, and informed her that if Sir Tim did not resign he would be sacked. Professor Rees and UCL did not deny it when this was put to them by the Telegraph. I have given Professor Rees the chance to rebut this allegation over several days as part of public-interest journalism, and he has not. Still, if it was not Prof. Rees it was a senior colleague of Prof. Mary Collins and s/he was speaking for the employer.

This is #DistractinglySexist. This is dishonourable. This is evidence-free. This is unscientific. This is political. This is a hostile work environment for Professor Mary Collins. What had she to do with it? How will UCL explain their overtly sexist actions – not jokes, actions?

How will the Royal Society explain their actions towards Sir Tim Hunt FRS on no evidence that was tested – such as, was the Today show broadcast the full story in the right order and context?

How will they explain the pre-judgement of Sir Tim BEFORE the Today show broadcast by Professors Bishop and Colquhoun? How will the Royal Society explain their different approaches to the jokes of Hunt and Nurse?

UCL issued a statement about the matter that appears to be provably false:

Sir Tim Hunt’s personal decision to offer his resignation from his honorary position at UCL was a sad and unfortunate outcome of the comments he made in a speech last week. Media and online commentary played no part in UCL’s decision to accept his resignation. 

In a huge amount of back-tracking and scrambling Bishop and Colquhoun have referred to this last line again and again. But “media and online commentary” is the ONLY source UCL had over what Sir Tim Hunt had said in Korea. They had no other sources, because they did not speak to Sir Tim Hunt. His words on Radio 4 could have been – and in fact had been – heavily edited. They did not check with Sir Tim Hunt to see if this was the case. Thus, they had no sources other than media and online sources. Due process did not happen.

Neither did respect for the position and rights of their actual employee – Professor Mary Collins.

UCL has a Council on 9th July. Given the evidence that Sir Tim Hunt’s resignation was forced in a sexist manner via his wife, and that two of the most powerful pushing for it had pre-judged Sir Tim EVEN BEFORE THE EDITED TODAY SHOW PROGRAMME, Fellows of UCL, or whoever judges there, should ask that his honorary Professorship be restored.

The Royal Society, on similar grounds, should restore his honorary membership of whatever committee he was on.

And because of their campaigning and pre-judgement of Sir Tim, which was evidence-free, contrary to good science, Professors Dorothy Bishop and David Colquhoun should, in my view, both be asked to resign from the Diversity Committee of the Royal Society.

Sarah Vine J

And the last word on Sir Tim Hunt, described, pre-Today show, by Professor David Colquhoun as a “misogynist” and of whom Professor Dorothy Bishop (of Oxford University, I am ashamed to say) stated “You don’t need to be a decent human being” to be an FRS, should go to one of his former female science students, Hyunsook Lee, now a Professor of Biological Sciences at Seoul University, Korea:

Korean letter

Thank you very much for fighting cancer, Sir Tim Hunt, FRS, Nobel prize-winning biochemist. I am not a Professor of science like David Colquhoun nor a Pulitzer winner like Deborah Blum. But I am a woman and a feminist, and I am grateful for your scientific work and your life-long mentoring of, and support for, women.

 

* I called her “Deborah Bishop” when her name is “Dorothy Bishop.”

Bullyfandom: Was TWCuddleston “Harassed”?

Last night I received numerous tweets and articles accusing me of ‘bullying’ the 17 year old appropriator of the #Milifandom hashtag, TWCuddleston* on Twitter. It would indeed be a serious thing had anybody bullied Ms. Cuddleston – bullying is always a scourge, and always wrong. I was planning to wait to write this piece, but even saying that I planned to wait encouraged a round of left-wing pieces such as HuffPo’s amusing “Louise Mensch Suspends ‘Bullying’ Campaign So Milifandom Founder Can Sit Her Exams.”

These accusations of bullying of TW- by me and several others – however, deserve a response, and it’s clear that if I don’t give one, left-wing websites will say that I ‘backed down’ and ‘admit my bullying’ or words to that effect. Therefore, I will put up this reply and thereafter ignore her and those tweeting about her. I blocked her account itself yesterday morning, my time, and therefore cannot see what she is writing.

Ms. Cuddleston was not bullied by me nor, as far as I can see, anybody else from the right, in any way. She  – and her supporters – have, however, claimed truly extraordinary levels of harassment. So in this piece, I examine what this alleged ‘bullying’ consists of.

I wrote about Ms. Cuddleston positively in my Sun column last month, where I examined the different response to her clever campaign and the abuse heaped on a student accused as posing of a schoolgirl to set up the ‘Cameronettes’ account (he didn’t).

SOCIAL media may persuade a few to vote but I doubt it will have much of an impact.

Yet the #Milifandom moment was clever social campaigning from young activists.

A 17-year-old student called Abby started the meme as an attempt to counter the media being mean to Ed. Then student Charlie Evans suggested a #Cameronettes hashtag — and a 13-year-old girl took it up with a Twitter account.

Lefties were soon accusing Evans of being a pervert, pretending to be 13 — and no matter how often he said “no”, they didn’t stop.

At the time, that was what I believed about Ms. Cuddleston. Like most, I noticed the #milifandom hysteria after the hashtag started on April 18 and was trending for a couple of days; Ms. Cuddleston had taken the credit and it was taking off. Shortly after that Labour Party Press Office announced that they had taken over Milifandom’s media affairs. This seemed pretty odd to me and several others – wasn’t MF a spontaneous teenage love-in with Ed Miliband?

I was asked ‘u mad bro’ because the @cameronettes copycat account was said to be fake. I replied, reasonably enough I hope, ‘Let’s see if the kid is real and milifandom is run by Labour press.’ ‘Not it’s not,’ replied @MissLauraMarcus, and another Labour supporter, they and copied in the @TWCuddleston account whom they said was the founder. I’d never heard of, nor sought out Cuddleston; her name was copied in to me.

So I asked a question, and as a reply to a tweet that included TW, her handle was automatically cc’ed in. Was Labour helping? I got two replies. The first was ‘Of course they are, they are trying to win an election.’ The second (from @MissLauraMarcus) was “Have you really sunk so low you are trying to smear a teenager?”

(At this point you can picture me making confused “Hm’roo?” Scooby-Doo noise). You what? Smear a teenager? How? Since that day Labour Press said they were taking over the account, I actually didn’t think Ms. Cuddleston would even be reading her own twitter. This seemed to me a totally legit question. Nobody was being accused of anything – well, other than the male student falsely accused of impersonating a thirteen year old girl and founding @cameronettes, being a pervert etc.

To this, my first question of MF and Labour handling it, I got responses that would become par for the course where Ms. Cuddleston was concerned over the next few weeks: “She’s a young girl doing some of the most important exams of her life!” “Thank you for proving how scared the Tories are of a 17 year old! Get a life, Louise!”.

Note the immediate accusations of bullying, ruining exams etc. @MissLauraMarcus continued to answer the question on behalf of Cuddleston and Labour and in almost every reply accused me of bullying for answering it. No amount of reasoned debate, or even praise for milifandom, could sway her.

It’s a great, well-executed, fun political meme,” I said. “The question is did the party co-ordinate it. If yes, admit.”

(I can certainly see how this brutal grilling and attack-dog style tweeting is a disgrace to feminists everywhere :) ) When Laura replied yet again with more “bullying” attacks, I said “Laura, all I hear is you talking for her and Labour Press who are handling her thing.”

At this point it was already getting wearisome of being accused of bullying for asking this legitimate question, and Laura’s claims of bullying were attracting others. “I’m an elderly lady older and wiser than you,” said one Labour supporter. “What would you call me for joining the #Milifandom?”

A hot babe with a sense of humour?” I replied. “No problems with any in #milifandom – only if Labour co-ordinated it and lied. And even then, the problem is not with the originator but with Labour using her.”

I confess that even upon rereading these tweets, they do not come across to me as inhuman pressure on a politically engaged young woman, or as attacks on the hashtag and its pictures: quite the opposite.

On this day, April 22, when I had accused Ms. Cuddleston of precisely nothing, and indeed praised the MF campaign as a ‘well executed fun political meme’, I got a ton of tweets accusing me of “bullying” her: just a few examples here, here, here, here and here. (My favourite might be “Mensch interrogation again? Wonder how long til the waterboarding #classy”)

However, at this point Ms. Cuddleston did reply to me and it was perfectly friendly.

“They [Labour] didn’t, I can promise you,” she said.

Thank you. Excellent bit of social media campaigning,” I said. ‘Feel like I should now make you a Milifandom-meets-Hiddleston fandom but not good at meme gen :)”

So far, so reasonable on both sides, you might say. But no. This mild response was met with more accusations of being “contemptible” and demanding I set the record straight, which I promised to do:

I’m going to write about the campaign, praising her work, this Sunday in the Sun,” I said, and did so, as excerpted above.

I then forgot about Ms. Cuddleston, as far as I was able to. I was bombarded still with utterly false accusations that I had ‘bullied’ her by asking if Labour press, having taken over her campaign, had assisted it, but I tried not to @ her name in reply. Bullying is a very nasty thing to do, a horrible accusation to have to counter, and clearly, I had not bullied Cuddleston. But I tried to tell myself that she, herself, was not responsible for all these shrieking lefties comparing my question to “water boarding” and crying about “bullying” a young political activist by, er, asking her a question.

During the election campaign I was no longer thinking about Ms, Cuddleston. All of my energies were focused on investigating George Galloway and Respect’s apparent violations of S106 of the Representation of the People Act in Bradford West, and as a columnist, I was particularly interested in Nigel Farage and Thanet South, as well as all the other issues that arose in the campaign from a feminist point of view, like the gender segregated rally in Birmingham organised by Labour.

Milifanmageddon arrived back on my TL when I replied to a tweet by (again) @MissLauraMarcus. It should be said that prior to the milimoment, Laura and I were tweeps, often agreeing on anti-semitism issues, so I frequently notice what she writes, and she had specifically addressed her tweet to me.

Laura asked me if I thought it was unethical that a reporter had knocked on Cuddleston’s door. ‘No it isn’t,’ I said. ‘She isn’t a child.‘ I would ask readers to note that this reply had no period in front of it; it was sent directly to Laura; nobody who didn’t follow both of us would even have read it. ‘Did you fulfill your promise and write about her in the Sun?’ Laura asked, accusing the reporter of ‘going after’ Cuddleston. ‘Yes, last week,’ I replied. There followed a discussion between the two of us and one other tweeter as whether a 17 year old is or is not a child and whether or not they can be asked for an interview. My position was that the press code of conduct wasn’t broken and that Ms. Cuddleston was a minor, not a child. ‘Legally can wed and serve in the Army,’ I pointed out. ‘Perfectly fine.’ Laura wasn’t having it: ‘What would your reaction be if it was a teenage Tory activist doorstepped by the Mirror?‘ she asked, ironically, as it would turn out. We debated the issue between ourselves. I did not @ TWCuddleston’s account at any point, nor was I even publicly tweeting about her; I was having a one-to-one conversation with Laura, visible only to our mutual followers. By this time, I found Cuddleston’s actions very distasteful. She was falsely complaining of harassment by reporters – a very serious charge, enough to get a reporter fired post Leveson, or to blacken their names for simply doing their jobs.

Yet TW’s prior timeline consisted of a massive string of self-glorifying tweets in which she directed her followers to RT her press, or exulted about another opportunity she was getting or mention that she had received. Media – handpicked media – was everywhere. She was first featured in a Buzzfeed interview on the 21st and posted a succession of shrieking tweets of joy about it in ALL CAPS, which she has now deleted

SO I WAS INTERVIEWED BY BUZZFEED FOR AN ARTICLE ABOUT THE #milifandom (Link to piece)

This was followed by “please RT” and “OMG I’m dying” as she exulted with her friends that Buzzfeed had made her famous. It was also followed by a  Guardian interview which TW gave after her tweet saying “No interviews please, I am doing my AS Levels” on the same day

 

Given also that Labour press had said they controlled her, it was quite possible that requests given in were being ‘curated’ and would not reach her. I saw no problem with a reporter knocking on the family’s doors, requesting an interview and leaving a business card – provided that when and if they got a ‘no’ they left. I had not been there that day, so I can’t say for sure what happened, but on May 2nd and 3rd when Laura asked my opinion on the incident (as publicly described on Twitter), that was it.

However, I was pretty surprised to find that my one to one conversation with Laura had resulted in a seemingly endless stream of stop-bullying-Cuddleston tweets directed at me, when I wasn’t speaking publicly, or even naming or @-ing her. It was probably because Laura added the #milifandom hashtag to this tweet to me:

Bit of advice love… I REALLY wouldn’t go after a very popular 17-year-old. Makes you look mean, nasty & bitter

Well, I thought Cuddleston’s wrong claims against a woman doing her job were disgraceful, and said so to Laura; but I was not tweeting my public TL, mentioning the girl’s name, or @-ing her into the conversation (and Laura had asked me my opinion of the incident). Again, this was apparently “going after” Cuddleston, as by now anything other than fawning praise was deemed to do.

On May 3rd, I was utterly bombarded by hundreds of “Don’t bully the milifandom founder” tweets; they were  by now beyond tiresome. But I was also perplexed as to where they had come from. Were I and Laura Marcus so interesting as all that? I saw it as a left-wing attempt to stop me tweeting all day long on #EdStone, which was the story of that day and (joy!) proved even more successful as a vote-influencing meme than #Milifandom.

Not til the end of the day on May 3, therefore, did I  check out Cuddleston’s timeline: Mystery solved:

Just an open message to Louise Mensch. I don’t care what you think. Thanks.

This had got 300 RTs, and presumably explained the tsunami of “stop-bullying-TW” tweets. As Ms. Cuddleston had not @-ed me, I had no idea she was talking about me, as I have never followed her on Twitter. A bit late therefore I replied to her:

just an open message to you. We have something in common. I don’t care what you think, either.

But Ms. Cuddleston was not done. She was deconstructing my conversation with Laura Marcus (remember, I’d been asked for my opinion on the reporter by Laura) for her followers on the left:

According to Louise Mensch, I am “asking for press.” Oh clearly, practically begging you to knock on my nans door.

She included the tweet of herself saying ‘no press’ because she had exams. But as I had discussed with Laura, her actions indicated a firm desire for press, even a relish for it, in my opinion, and the press code tweeted at me showed a division in the code between approaching children under 16 and those older minors.
It is also worth saying that @TWCuddleston’s supporters repeatedly claiming that she is “a child” are wrong in law. Under S 107 of the Children and Young Person’s Act, a “child” is under 14. Those over 14 and under 18 are defined as a “Young Person.
  • Child” means a person under the age of fourteen years;…..young person” means a person who has attained the age of fourteen and is under the age of eighteen years.”

This distinction is also in the IPSO press code, which treats those under 16 differently from those over 16 (the age of consent). TW herself argued she should have the vote at 16. So, not a child then. A young person.
Apart from my reply to Cuddleston, however, I still took care not to @ her directly. From the first non-threatening question, literally everything thrown her way had been called bullying. The difference for me pre May 2nd, was that I tried not to ascribe that false accusation to Cuddleston herself. After May 2nd I was pretty disgusted to see her making what based on public description of the incident  was not at all harassment into harassment. Having sat on the hacking inquiry on the Select Committee, I know what a severe and solid charge it would be had a newspaper bullied, threatened or otherwise harassed a young woman doing her exams; and the reporter in question would be a pariah. It was a serious thing indeed Cuddleston said this woman had done to her. And therefore at this point I started actually looking at the activist’s TL to see what had really happened versus the persecution that she claimed happened – and as somebody wholly falsely accused of being a “bully” to Cuddleston, I was now reading her claims with a skeptical eye.
And woah, did TW make some claims. She hysterically demanded ‘answers’ from Rupert Murdoch as to why reporters had turned up at her door and tracked her down. She praised herself for standing up to Murdoch. She tweeted at former AG Emily Thornberry of white van fame who also tweeted in all caps “Rupert Murdoch call off your dogs.” And this was May 2nd! A long time after TW had tweeted ‘no interviews’ before giving one to the Guardian! Have these people no respect…?
But then TW’s air of sanctity started to unravel a little bit. It emerged she had tweeted, then deleted, a photograph showing TWO reporters’ cards – one with the Sunday Mirror on it. When called out on that, she hastily said that all press intrusion was wrong. Reporters stated they did not believe her. ‘It’s just that you are going on a rant without mentioning  the Labour supporting Mirror who also contacted.”
TW excused the Mirror with the very odd excuse that “Mirror however contacted after part of my location had been revealed.” What did that mean? Part of my location? She was accusing the Sun reporter by repeatedly questioning all and sundry how the reporter could possibly legitimately have obtained her address. Sadly for her, this was a ‘harassment’ accusation too far. A bunch of different journalists either rebuked her, or, as supporters, attempted to set her straight: these are not ‘Tory scum’ but Labour supporting writers with Tony Benn in the bio.
Urgh. @twcuddleston reporter bashing is a bit tiring. If reporters weren’t rude and just knocked the door what’s the problem?

@twcuddleston before they came around did you give any other journalists or political party members any identifying details?

@twcuddleston It’s easy to do, tbh, social media footprint, couple of surnames then check electoral register, phone data. Nothing illegal.

@twcuddleston @JonDennis @rupertmurdoch Journalists in following-up-well-publicised-story-and-trying-to-interview-someone-involved shocker.

@twcuddleston Of course not! But not illegal to try to interview you either. Addresses are easy to find lots of ways – basic journalism.

@sarahlansell @twcuddleston Depends. Not sthg I’ve had to do a lot myself but I’ve found people eg from first name, context plus Googling.

 

But of course, Ms. Cuddleston was not interested in that – she wished to claim major persecution (but only from the disliked media group).

“Please Retweet! Shame on you @rupertmurdoch. Call off your dogs & leave @twcuddleston,17 yr old creator of & her family alone!

  •  Said Emily Thornberry, former Labour Cabinet minister. Once again, the Labour party are handling TW’s press.

This description of a reporter who knocked on TW’s door, was polite and friendly (by TW’s own account), left her card, and left – as a “dog” – finally brought a few protesting journalists into the open. “Slight overreaction?” asked Isabel Oakshott mildly. “Sounds like legitimate pursuit of a story, unless there’s something I’m missing.” She was one of many to suggest that electoral roll look up of the parents and googling could have brought up the address. With immense hypocrisy, @MsJenniferJames, who we see above telling TW ‘nobody is out to get you’ on the identical issue, now , tells Oakshott “Either through stupidity or malice you’re attempting to provoke a child. Do one.” “Zzzz,” Oakshott responded (hooray). By this time, TW had twice posted the Sun reporter’s phone number in two separate tweets (both now deleted). In the first picture, she uses the Sun reporter’s details to obscure the name of a Mirror card. In the second, she removes the Mirror card altogether, clearly displaying the reporter’s number yet again. Advice to remove a phone number is, once more, ‘harassment.’ A lawyer who points out to her that under the law she is not a child, and that she supports votes for 16 year olds whilst calling herself a child, is accused of not only harassment, but sexual perversion.

Meanwhile that night, a mentally disturbed woman going by the handle @SherbetLemon1 – her profile said she had PTSD – was telling TW she could be “sued”. Everybody around her, including Peter Jukes, was assuring her what utter nonsense that was:

https://twitter.com/peterjukes/status/594663964258238464 Murdoch never sues.

Yet the next night, as I argued with him – again, not with Cuddleston directly – Jukes was trying to claim mysterious and non-existent “legal threats”, as if they had come from a journalist, or somebody connected to the paper that asked Cuddleston for an interview. Jukes knew full well that literally nobody other than the poor mentally ill woman, whom TW’s fans ironically bullied off Twitter altogether, had ever suggested she would be sued or attacked.

So, there we have it. Nobody ‘harassed’ TW Cuddleston. Some reporters disagreed with her, and were characterized as a “baying pack of tabloid hounds” when they were lefties working at the Oxford Mail, for example, by Jukes. Cuddleston displayed extraordinary hypocrisy as she twice doxxed a reporter, then ranted for days against non-existent “bullying” by the Murdoch empire. Cuddleston excerpted a one-to-one tweet conversation I’d had with her supporter and broadcast it to her followers, to feed a victim complex when she wasn’t even being named, @’ed, or publicly addressed. Cuddleston  claimed that the Mirror were somehow less guilty than the Sun because “part of my location” had been revealed even when her address had not. Cuddleston stated that her tweet saying ‘no interviews’ mattered, then totally contradicted herself as her May 2-3rd rant about a polite interview request showed a text from her Dad (posted by her) dated April 22 – the same day as her tweet, and the same day that despite it she was talking to the Guardian. In all likelihood then, the Sun reporter could have left to knock on Cuddleston’s door as or before that tweet was made – she would have been traveling and unlikely to see it – whereas the “days later” Mirror reporter must, by definition, have known full well she had “requested” no interviews.

Not only myself, but any person disagreeing with Cuddleston was falsely accused of harassment or trolling of a young woman who is not a child under either IPSO or the Children and Young Person’s Act, and who can already vote in some UK elections, like the Scottish referendum, had she lived there.

And Cuddleston had sunk to the level of tens of hysterical tweets against a woman who – by her own account – did her job politely, in a friendly way, and simply left a card – whilst casting herself as the scourge of the evil empire – and yet not @ -ing even one single tweet to the Mirror group, who had committed the identical “offence” only days after her ‘no interviews’ tweet was made, not on the same day.

Harassment IS serious. Bullying IS serious. The reporter did not do it to Cuddleston, nor did I, nor did anyone else. The lawyer who pointed out her status as a ‘young person’ not a child said he received “hundreds” of abusive tweets from her fans… “worse than UKIP,” was his amusing verdict.

In the same conversation in which a left-wing journalist fan of TW’s was accusing Isabel Oakshott of “stupidity or malice, attempting to provoke a child”, the journalist Katie Glass also dared to venture an opinion, and I think it’s a good one on which to end:

@HadleyFreeman @LouiseMensch I resisted criticising her because she’s young. But can she be in public debate but outside comment?!

@PatrickStrud @HadleyFreeman @LouiseMensch complicated though. Can someone expect to express+ influence opinion but remain outside comment?

No. They can’t. Absolutely nobody has harassed Ms TW Cuddleston. I think she has an enormous future ahead of her in the Labour party. I do not mean that as a compliment.

 

* Yes, I realise this is not her real name. As she has said that my engaging with her ‘makes her cry’ I will simply use her Twitter handle for this piece. I do not care who she is or what her real name is; it isn’t relevant to the principle of whether or not a 17 year old can be debated by an adult. Also in order not to ‘make her cry’, I will close comments on the blog, and will not respond to her nor to any of her surrogates on Twitter. Although she has not been a child since she was 14, if she wishes to be treated like one, I can accommodate her.

Axis of Evil J

Galloway’s Staffer, The Serjeant-At-Arms and Release of Parliamentary Data

Yesterday the news broke that IPSA, the Parliamentary regulators, having reviewed two complaints against George Galloway, the former MP for Bradford West, had referred them to the police.

It goes without saying that a referral is neither a conviction nor even a prosecution. But it does mean that Ms. Ali Khan’s complaint cannot be described as trivial, and that Parliament’s watchdog body agreed with her that there was a case the police should look at. Her lawyers, in statements, described ‘thousands of pages’ worth of evidence. Much of this evidence I have seen myself. Ms. Ali-Khan approached me last year and asked me to look at her case and see if I could help her.

As a footnote to the various articles, it was added in that I had also made a complaint which had been referred. The assumption by journalists was that I had complained on the same grounds. That assumption was incorrect.

Tom Newton-Dunn in the Sun broke the story that there was a pre-existing investigation by police into possible data protection offences which is currently being investigated after ‘a third party made a complaint’ in March. That third party was me.

On the same day that I made a complaint to the Metropolitan Police, I made an expenses-based complaint to IPSA against Mr. Galloway. This complaint, IPSA told me yesterday, they have also referred to the police (on the expenses grounds under which I made it).

It has nothing to do with how Mr. Galloway used the time of Ms. Ali Khan when she worked for him.

It has to do with how one of Mr. Galloway’s then parliamentary staff, Mr. Rob Hoveman, used his parliamentary email address and may have used parliamentary equipment and facilities, to seek data about Ms. Ali-Khan from various sources – including her parliamentary data as a House of Commons employee from the Serjeant at Arms, and including her Muslim divorce certificate – and passed that data to the Guardian newspaper.

If indeed this did happen with Mr. Galloway’s knowledge, it would be an appalling misuse of the powers, funds and office of an MP against a private citizen of the UK.

I regarded that as wrong both on grounds of data protection and on grounds of use of expenses.

My complaint to IPSA was rather different than Ms. Ali-Khan’s in that it did not contain thousands of pages of evidence. It contained one page of evidence – the email sent to me by the staffer in question from his then parliamentary email address, which I reproduce here, redacted as to references to third parties to protect their privacy:

 

From: Louise Mensch
Sent: 18 July 2014 16:45
To: HOVEMAN, Rob
Subject: Press Enquiry: Aisha Ali-Khan personal information

Dear Mr. Hoveman,

My name is Louise Mensch, and I am a journalist who writes for the Sun newspaper.

I have heard allegations that you improperly requested personal information on Ms. Ali Khan from the Serjeant-At-Arms, and that you passed on private and personal information about her to the Guardian newspaper.

Can you tell me if either of those allegations are true?

[redacted – questions about other allegations not relevant to this case]

I hope to receive a reply very shortly from you as to your personal actions relating to Ms. Ali-Khan’s data. If I do not receive one, I will send a Freedom of Information request to your office, to IPSA, and to the Serjeant-At-Arms’ office.

I will be most grateful for a contact to whom I should put my questions about Mr. Galloway, and/or if there is a direct and private email by which I can contact Mr. Galloway, or a good time at which I can speak to him directly.

I will give your office until this coming Monday, at 5pm, to respond to me.

Yours sincerely,

Louise Mensch

 

 Email received in reply:

Dear Ms Mensch,

I would not normally respond to any approach from a “Sun journalist” given what an atrocious paper the Sun is. I only have to recall the grotesque insult this paper made to the victims and the families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster to feel almost physically sick at the thought of dealing with someone from this particularly unpleasant part of the gutter press. Nonetheless, I think it is incumbent on me to correct the tissue of lies and disinformation that you have been fed regarding matters concerning Aisha Ali-Khan.

 

Ms Ali-Khan was employed by George Galloway between April 1st and December 10th 2012 when she was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct. She was suspended from work on October 14th 2014. A police investigation into her activities and those of her lover former Detective Inspector Afiz Khan followed concerns raised in parliament and directly with the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the Home Secretary. The result of this investigation was the summary dismissal of Afiz Khan from the Metropolitan Police and the conviction of both Afiz Khan and Aisha Ali-Khan for criminal offences. The two will be jointly sentenced on 31st July this year.

 

[redacted as reference to 3rd party]

On October 19th 2012, the Guardian published an article largely based upon the testimony of Aisha Ali-Khan. We raised objection to the bias in this and another article published on 15thOctober by the same journalist. In response to this complaint we received a reply from the then Managing Editor of the Guardian, Elisabeth Ribbans. In that response reference was made to the Guardian journalist having been shown information contained in Aisha Ali-Khan’s Security Vetting Questionnaire which Aisha Ali-Khan had been obliged to complete in order to receive her security pass giving her access to the parliamentary estate.

 

The specific claim made by Ms Ribbans was that the SVQ contained details of Afiz Khan as her spouse. Subsequently it was established that an Islamic but not civil marriage between Aisha Ali-Khan and Afiz Khan in 2009 had been followed by an Islamic divorce in 2010 confirmed by a Sharia Council. In the light of this information, I raised with Serjeant at Arms concerns about aspects of the security vetting of Ms Ali-Khan. Serjeant at Arms wrote back to me saying that the SVQ contained no reference to a serving police officer, from which I concluded that there was a prima facie contradiction between what Ms Ribbans had written to us in 2012 and the information provided to me by Serjeant at Arms in 2014. Naturally I raised this apparent contradiction with the Readers’ Editor at the Guardian, who is, for your information, a kind of Guardian ombudsman. His investigations into this matter are currently ongoing, but as a Sun journalist, you will no doubt be aware of just how serious a misdemeanour it would be for a journalist to fail to check the veracity and the credibility of a source properly, and even worse give false information regarding the checking of the veracity and credibility of a source, when false information could cost a newspaper very dearly.

 

As regards any potential breach of the Data Protection Act, I would say this. The divorce certificate confirmed by Sharia Council [redacted for a reference to a third party ]are documents in the public domain not covered either by the Data Protection Act or legal privilege. Serjeant at Arms sought advice from Speaker’s counsel before responding to me. I cannot imagine that any breach of the Data Protection Act would have occurred in such circumstances. I raised my concerns in the light of the information provided by Serjeant at Arms privately and in confidence to the Guardian Readers’ Editor. I am extremely surprised that any legitimate party to my exchanges with the Guardian Readers’ Editor would then have shared any or all of that information with the likes of a “Sun journalist”.

[redacted]

I trust this will correct some of the misinformation and misrepresentation to which you have been subject and ensure that you do not waste any more of your or my time on this particularly fruitless line of enquiry. As for other matters of which I have no knowledge but which relate to George Galloway and the Respect Party, I would advise you email your questions to, respectively, george.galloway.mp@parliament.uk in the former case and contact@respectparty.org in the latter.

Yours sincerely,

Rob Hoveman

 

 

Ms. Ali Khan provided me with a copy of her SVQ form. It is absolutely clear on the form that the data an employee provides thereon can only be used for parliamentary purposes. This is written on the form itself. I am unsure about the legality of reproducing a parliamentary data form, even a blank one, so at this stage I am not going to do so. However, that warning is written on the form. I do not believe that when the Serjeant-At-Arms sought advice from Speaker’s Counsel they knew that the intention was to give this data to a newspaper. Be that as it may, I nonetheless believe this was not proper and hence my twin complaints.

As to whether this Muslim woman’s private religious documentation was covered by the Data Protection Act, I am not sure. That it would be improper to use parliamentary time and resources to seek this out on a private citizen and pass it to a newspaper, I most certainly believe. Eagle-eyed readers will note that that is not the first time allies of Mr. Galloway have used a Muslim woman’s religious documentation against her.

Clearly, I am stating here that I believe expenses were wrongly used and data was wrongly passed on. It is for the police to decide if they agree that is so. What I can confirm is that the police did decide to investigate my data protection complaint of March 25, and that IPSA did refer my expenses complaint, that of improper use of staff time of this staffer on Ms. Ali Khan, on separate grounds to the Met, yesterday.

I should say that when I put various allegations to Mr. Galloway directly, his lawyers responded to me. One of my questions was if he knew of or approved of the actions of his staffer in the matter of Aisha Ali Khan’s information. Although his lawyers answered several of my questions, they declined to answer this one either to confirm or to deny it.

I am grateful to IPSA for looking into my expenses complaint and referring it to the Metropolitan Police. Despite Mr. Galloway describing me as part of a “New York-Tel Aviv axis of evil,” I will not be deterred in my reporting.

(as the matter concerns one ongoing police investigation, and possibly another should the Met Police decide to take up IPSA’s expenses referral, I am closing comments on the blog today).

bluebells

Advice to Ex-MPs

My sympathies to every MP who lost their seat, except George Galloway, over whose loss I rejoice with all my heart.

When I resigned my seat, for reasons I will never be able to be wholly forthcoming about, the Labour supporter and rugby legend Brian Moore reached out to me on Twitter and advised me to get counseling for the traumatic loss. He compared it to the effect on athletes after their careers finish, after they win, or lose, an Olympic medal say, and then life reverts to normal.

For all MPs, Westminster is a high-stress, high-octane environment. It is full of hard work and excitement. Life there is lived on the edge. You devote your life to public service, the public detest you, and then you lose your seat and for many, a great chunk of your life’s significance in the public eye. In that way, this post could be for anybody who loses a big job, a sports career, or other professional role. [Edited to add – the same applies to MPs staff who lose their jobs, to councillors and several police officers and servicemen/women have tweeted to say it applies to them too – even losing candidates who are no longer PPCs].

For the first year after resigning I thought I was cracking up*. No wonder how much I talked to myself, was sensible and got on with life, my subconscious had other ideas; I had a Parliament-related dream almost every night for a year. It was pretty awful.

In the end, the way I put it behind me was twofold. Firstly, and most importantly, I was able to replace Parliament with another job that is hugely significant to me and which has a component of mission. That’s the single biggest lesson. Secondly, I rededicated myself to political and Conservative activism, on Twitter, with opinion columns, and with this blog which, in the case of Mr. Galloway, I believe has had some impact. I truly flung myself at the campaign and targeted effort on Bradford West (as a feminist and principled case) and South Thanet. If you are Labour or a Tory or a LibDem you are likely a true believer. Remain a true believer and get to work.

However there are also short-term things you can do, and here’s what I think ex-colleagues ought to do for themselves now, in order.

1. Acknowledge that the full impact of this loss will not hit you for several months.

2. Firstly, get the tasks out of the way that need doing – write to your team and thank them all.

3. If possible, take a short break away with friends or a loved one.

4. Do not ruminate. You get more of what you focus on. Ask yourself constantly ‘What’s next for me?’ and have several answers. It will be a long five years til the next election. Do not think in terms now of another seat, but a different job and role. [Adding – psychologically, fixating on a new seat, or other identical role to the one you just lost, is really an attempt to wind back the clock and “fix” what just happened – that cannot be done, so a new role at least for a year or so is wise].

5. Acknowledge you will be prone to depression. The way to combat this is to spend a lot of time outside, especially as the summer comes up. Take up meditation, I recommend the app “Simply Being” here. The effects of meditation, which is 20 minutes clearing the mind of thoughts, are medically proven. Go for walks in green spaces; the countryside, and parks. There are benefits to losing your seat. You have time for yourself, your family, your friends.

6. Take up an exercise programme however moderate. Exercise diminishes stress and produces endorphins not just in the moment, but long-term. It is clinically effective for mild to moderate depression and is a preventative of depression. As you may develop depression it is VERY important to start this at once. Go for a brisk walk or a jog tomorrow and repeat every day, if physically able to do so. You will lose weight, look better and your self-esteem will improve and this will have a knock-on effect of further moderating any sadness.

7. Alcohol is a depressant. Stay away from cheap joy. Try very hard to go for a dry May-June while you regroup. [Adding – as you will be sad you will be more vulnerable to alcohol abuse – that will stop you exercising and being in the sunlight – stay well clear for a month or so] See a therapist if you need to, too.

8. See a lot of comedies. Go to museums, enjoy yourself.

9. Reinvention of the physical self must however be matched with the sensible realization that you will never get over it until you have something as good or better in your life. Look for a job, a charity, a role, that  can replace the adrenaline and octane of Parliament. We are all Type A. Don’t kid yourselves on that one.

10. Tell yourself the truth – you did something important in your life and the only ones who never suffer a defeat are those who never join the field of battle. You should be proud of your public service, and whether you stand again or not in the future, these summer days will not come your way again, nor these fallow years. Do not waste them – go and build a new world and climb a new mountain. We are more than what we do. Be more than your job; be a person and tie your self-esteem to your efforts, not the results of your efforts. You can control the former, not the latter.

PS – I was deadly serious about the magic bullet of exercise, fresh air and green spaces. One of the easiest wins, most in your own control, and implementable instantly, is to get on the scales and then go build a better, stronger, healthier body. New achievements are the antidote to ruminating and looking back. I might add that while you pursue a big new job, which takes time, you can also usefully add other achievements such as learning a language which is an immediate challenge and gives you something to pursue. I loved learning German and Italian with Pimsleur, which are half hour a day audio lessons on iTunes that test you as you listen. Walk in the park while learning French – it gives you a sense of power and achievement right away; after one big role you need new challenges and goals while you try to land the next one.

 

* “cracking up” here relates to my persistent dreams rather than my mental health in general. I was able to stave off depression by flinging myself into exercise and fitness in New York as I advise in this blog. Once you have become depressed it is hard to get out and exercise, so the key thing is to get going before it hits.