Fresh from her ground breaking exclusive – that just so happened to be “categorically not true” – the Guardian’s environment reporter Helena Horton issued a stark warning a fortnight ago that UK river levels were going to be “devastated” by a dry spring. To be fair she quoted experts from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology who warned two weeks ago in their monthly outlook of “extended dry conditions”. This may surprise any UK-based co-conspirators who have happened to so much as look outside recently – as Storm Mathis is bringing nationwide rainfall. There’s even a rain weather warning in place… Hope the hydrology boffins have got their umbrellas today.
This wasn’t the article’s only slip-up. The Guardian issued a correction because to illustrate these uncharacteristically low river levels, they used an image of the River Ribble. The River Ribble is tidal.
Helena’s inclement forecast is far from her first foray into misleading stories. In addition to her widely publicised Attenborough story, linked above, she’s previously reported that the Ritz took grouse off the menu – they hadn’t – and that Brits travelled to Iceland to hunt puffins 100 at a time – they didn’t. Helena ‘half-truth’ Horton should rain it in…
With BBC impartiality under the spotlight, a Guardian exclusive on Friday – alleging the BBC shelved a final episode of David Attenborough’s latest documentary for fear of a “right wing backlash” – gained traction on social media. Despite the BBC denying the “totally inaccurate” claims, Pippa Crerar’s tweet sharing the article alone got 1.3 million views.
Helena Horton, took to Twitter to spin the narrative. She dismissed the BBC’s denial as “Orwellian”.
Can assure you my story is impeccably sourced, and yes the BBC’s (in my personal view) Orwellian comment is included in the piece 😊— Helena Horton (@horton_official) March 10, 2023
Despite Ms Horton’s insistence the Guardian quietly changed their tune. Amending the piece to include the denial:
After this morning Helena will have another organisation to add to her list of Orwellian censors. Speaking on the Today programme, Tonya Steele, the CEO of the World Wildlife Foundation, who funded* the programme, added to the evidence against the piece. She called the Guardian’s reporting “categorically not true”.
The GUardian’s environment reporter is a repeat offender. This is in the tradition of Helena’s fake grouse story, There is a pattern..
*That in itself is striking.
Guido doesn’t want to grouse too heavily about fake news in The Guardian, he’d be here all day, though Sunday’s example really does fly in the face of accuracy. In the Observer, Helena Horton celebrated that it was “game over” for animal cruelty lovers as the Ritz takes grouse off their menu “in victory for environment campaigners”. Horton claimed:
“those hoping to eat the tiny game bird in the gilded Ritz dining room in London will be out of luck this year, as the world-famous hotel has quietly removed it from the menu after an outcry from environmental campaigners.”
Just one problem: the restaurant is adamant this is absolutely not true. Multiple approaches by Guido and co-conspirators have received this emphatic denial from the restaurant’s PR team:
“Yorkshire Grouse is on the menu in the Ritz Restaurant and has been since 12 August.”
In other words, the story’s central claim is for the birds. So why did the Observer say otherwise?
Firstly it appears Helena Horton’s source was Luke Steele, who first tweeted the claim, however has mysteriously since deleted his post. He’s introduced to readers as “executive director of wildlife campaign group Wild Moors”, with the paper overlooking his previous convictions for attacks on laboratories and harassment and intimidation of lab workers. Perhaps not an entirely reliable starting point…
Then there’s Helena herself, who long-reading co-conspirators may remember. Back in 2019 while at the Telegraph she wrote a sensationalist piece claiming British trophy hunters were going to Iceland to hunt puffins, 100 at a time, and bringing their carcasses back to the UK. Guido did a fact check of this at the time and, once again, there was no foundation in truth. Repetitions of Helena’s claim were deleted by the Independent, Mirror and Metro, however her fake news stayed up.
The Countryside Alliance is reporting a much better year for grouse numbers this year – no doubt a relief for many living and working in otherwise very isolated Moorland communities. They have made a formal complaint to the Observer over the story. Based on her past precedent at the Telegraph, Guido doubts Helena will back down…