Guido regrets to report that disgraced former Indy writer Johann Hari’s re-education has not been a success. Hari has embarked on something of a comeback working for Russell Brand and making up a new book, but today forensic internet sleuth Jeremy Duns, fresh from slotting Mo Ansar, has caught him up to his old tricks once again. Hari says he’s a changed man and posts audio clips of all his interviews to back up his claims. Yet comparing Hari’s written account of a new interview with the audio posted on his website, Duns finds the same old discrepancies. He writes:
It’s the first quote from Sarah Brook. The clip is just seven seconds long. She says: ‘I was the person who found the – me and my colleague – who found the bullet in the leg.’
I’ve put it in quotes because it is a direct quote. That is what she said. But it’s a little awkward. How to render that in an article? Well, I’d probably not use that quote, but instead write something like ‘Brook and a colleague found the bullet in the leg.’ And then quote her.
But that isn’t what Hari did in his article published this month in the British Airways magazineHigh Life. Instead, he has this:
‘Then a corpse was found. It had been there a while. Most of the meat had rotted away. It was a skeleton with hooves. The horn had been chopped off, and the entire skull was found elsewhere. The tail had been cut off. ‘I was the person,’ Sarah tells me years later, in a café in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, ‘who found the bullet in the leg’. It became clear that Sarah had stumbled into a turning point in history — one she couldn’t have foreseen. She was standing over the body of the last ever Vietnamese rhino. This subspecies had survived unchanged for nine million years, and now it was gone forever.’
That quote is inaccurate. I have heard it and verified it was not said directly to Johann Hari, and you can, too. It is significantly inaccurate, too, because it leaves out a key fact – two people found the bullet. There is no valid journalistic reason to leave out the second person his interviewee has told him about. Hari has misquoted his interviewee, and in doing so risked making her come across as boastful when she was not, a liar when she was not, and perhaps even created a problem for her with that colleague. And he has also misled us, his readers.
Bloomsbury will be reading Johann’s new book very carefully before they let it hit the shelves… Hari’s one time defenders are very quiet.