Today the Daily Mail has issued a public apology to US First Lady Melania Trump and paid damages and costs understood to be in the range of £2 million for a story alleging she once worked as an escort.
An apology and full retraction was published prominently by Mail Online and will also appear in the print edition – and so it should. The Mail must learn that it cannot print falsehoods about the First Lady or anyone else for that matter, and that it should pay the consequences if it does. But there was something unwonted about the manner in which it issued the statement.
The public apology featured among the top items of the day on their popular online site, and given the length you can expect it will take a prominent position in tomorrow’s print edition. It concluded with the remarks: “We apologise to Mrs Trump for any distress that our publication caused her. To settle Mrs Trump’s two lawsuits against us, we have agreed to pay her damages and costs.”
Not unlike the public apology to the the Mahmood family that featured (albeit far less prominently) at the end of 2016, that read: “We and Katie Hopkins apologise to the Mahmood family for the distress and embarrassment caused and have agreed to pay them substantial damages and their legal costs”. But in this case, unlike in the case involving the US President and his wife, the “substantial damages and legal costs” amounted to a fraction of what was paid out to the Trump family. Were the two infringements that unalike?
Hopkins and The Mail suggested in that article that the US authorities were right to stop Mohammed Tariq Mahmood, his brother Mohammed Zahid Mahmood and nine children from travelling to Los Angeles for a trip to Disneyland last year, saying that the two brothers were extremists with links to al-Qaida. Pretty damaging stuff. The article also suggested that the reason the family gave for visiting the US was a lie, and that she would have stopped them from boarding the flight from Gatwick – all of which, of course, proved to be utter rubbish.
Accusations of been a prostitute aren’t really any worse than accusing someone of being a terrorist, are they? I’ll let you decide. But while you ponder on that, take a moment to think about this. Last month Wikipedia editors voted to ban the Daily Mail as a source after deeming the news group “generally unreliable”. The arguments for a ban “centred on the Daily Mail’s reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication”, highlighting the fact that the Mail has now become generally unreliable across the board.
It is a blessing that the Mail is once again in the spotlight for publishing fake news, but we mustn’t become bogged down in high-profile cases if we’re to see the true extent of the fake news been peddled by one of the UK’s most tarnished yet most read publications.