Don’t Menschn the BBC

By Dan Waddell (@danwaddell) and Paula Higgins (@justamusicprof)

In her role as lead apologist in the ongoing campaign to exonerate Sir Tim Hunt for sexist comments made at a luncheon honouring female scientists in South Korea last month, Louise Mensch has been vociferous in her criticism of the reporting of others.

She has accused those who initially reported Hunt’s comments of distortions and lies; she has accused the BBC, who interviewed Hunt for Radio Four’s Today programme, of ‘sloppy journalism’ and of ‘splicing’ and displacing a key sentence in the recording of his interview to distort the meaning of what he said; she has also accused a number of others on social media of lying and misrepresentation.

All this, despite the fact that Hunt, when asked on BBCR4 Today programme broadcast on 10th June about the initial reports of his comments in Korea, said ‘what I said has been quite accurately reported.’

Mensch claims to have used ‘evidence-based’ journalism. But our research suggests otherwise. In her column of July 5th in the Sun on Sunday entitled Will the Beeb Come Clean On Betrayal of Nobel Winner she quotes the BBC as saying:

“We treated Professor Hunt fairly,” a BBC spokesman told me. “His words were not selectively edited to change their meaning.”

However, it turns out that BBC had issued an official media statement on the matter of which, as we have confirmed, The Sun and other outlets were recipients. The FULL, official BBC statement from a BBC spokesperson reads (emphases in bold = text omitted from Mensch’s Sun article):

‘We treated Professor Hunt fairly — he gave Today a recorded interview which he was clear would be used for broadcast and his words were not selectively edited to change their meaning. Our coverage of the story that week included both supporters and critics of Prof Hunt. We did not misquote his original comments and have received no complaint from him about any of our broadcasts.”

Mensch herself appears to have ‘spliced’ what was originally one sentence into two, deleting its middle portion clarifying Hunt’s clear consent to the circumstances of the interview. She also deleted two further sentences: one assuring readers of the the BBC’s objectivity in having interviewed BOTH supporters and critics of Hunt, and another, stating for the record, that Hunt had not complained to the BBC about the way his words were reported, presented and quoted by the Today programme.

To this day, as we have confirmed, that remains the case. Surely, had the BBC audio distorted his meaning in some way, Hunt would have complained by now?

The BBC have ‘put words in Sir Tim’s mouth’, claimed Mensch.

Why then did Mensch herself omit from her column — or, come to think of it, in any of her subsequent thousands and thousands of tweets on the subject — the BBC’s denial of doing exactly that?

‘…is our state broadcaster going to withhold crucial evidence?’ she asked at the end of her column.

Surely, if you’re going to make such a demand, you shouldn’t withhold crucial information yourself?

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