Sunday Times Journalist’s Inventive Track Record

The Sunday Times dominated the weekend’s debate thanks to their article, “38 Days When Britain Sleepwalked into Disaster. Aspects of the piece were subsequently torn apart, in particular the accusation that the PM “skipped” five COBRA meetings at the start of the crisis, with medical experts and the Department for Health putting out lengthy rebuttals of the article’s claim. Guido wasn’t surprised the article had holes in, not least because the Sunday Times’ Environment Editor, Jonathan Leake, was one of the authors. Leake’s stories are often full of holes…

One stark mistake in the article was claiming immunologist Peter Openshaw “would have recommended increasing the threat to high”, however Openshaw later tweetedI wasn’t there so can’t say if I would have dissented if I’d been there to hear the arguments”.

Leake has a string of journalist faux pas to his name, and is fondly remembered by a source at DEFRA for the following:

  • Accused Gove of ordering the “killing of sick squirrels and deer”, with DEFRA subsequently explaining it was completely untrue and he hadn’t approached them for comment
  • Asserted based purely on anecdotal evidence that “Pets, zoo animals and even Prince Charles’s cattle have been felled by the rampant disease [TB]” – something, again, the department explicitly said was completely untrue only to not have their statement included in the piece
  • Wrongly claimedFrench warship chases fishermen from scallop bay”, once again without asking the department who would have informed him the ships in question were 30 miles away from each other
  • Misled readers that “metered homes pay 60% more for water” by making inappropriate comparisons between metered and unmetered customers with different water companies

Leake has a promising future as a fiction writer …

mdi-tag-outline DEFRA Sunday Times
mdi-account-multiple-outline Jonathan Leake
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