Good. This needs to happen more often:
Following last Saturday’s (Jan 19) Telegraph magazine cover story “The mystery of Melania”, we have been asked to make clear that the article contained a number of false statements which we accept should not have been published. Mrs Trump’s father was not a fearsome presence and did not control the family. Mrs Trump did not leave her Design and Architecture course at University relating to the completion of an exam, as alleged in the article, but rather because she wanted to pursue a successful career as a professional model. Mrs Trump was not struggling in her modelling career before she met Mr Trump, and she did not advance in her career due to the assistance of Mr Trump.
We accept that Mrs Trump was a successful professional model in her own right before she met her husband and obtained her own modelling work without his assistance. Mrs Trump met Mr Trump in 1998, not in 1996 as stated in the article. The article also wrongly claimed that Mrs Trump’s mother, father and sister relocated to New York in 2005 to live in buildings owned by Mr Trump. They did not. The claim that Mrs Trump cried on election night is also false.
We apologise unreservedly to The First Lady and her family for any embarrassment caused by our publication of these allegations. As a mark of our regret we have agreed to pay Mrs Trump substantial damages as well as her legal costs.
When I say it needs to happen more often, I should clarify: Ideally it would neverhappen, because the media would not act with malice and disregard for truth is publishing such hit pieces about public figures.
But they do, and they need to start suffering some serious pain as a result. Otherwise there is no reason they would ever stop.
The facts corrected above could have been easily checked by a reporter who cared at all about fairness or accuracy. The only way you get stuff like this wrong is if you don’t care about being fair or accurate, but rather have an objective to hurt the subject of your piece as much as possible.
And it wasn’t just Mrs. Trump. The piece took gratuitous shots at her father too. The whole thing is designed to create the impression that she’s the product of dark, dysfunctional surroundings, and probably to imply that’s why she married Donald Trump. If you take your cues from this piece, Trump is little more than a proxy for her mean, domineering father.
Except that the whole thing is rubbish, which the Telegraph now admits.
Granted, I’m sure the Telegraph’s editors did not make any of these admissions out of the goodness of their own hearts. The only reason you’d agree to something like this is to settle a potential libel case that you think a) you would lose; and b) would cost you a lot more than what you’re agreeing to settle for.
They probably had to have Mrs. Trump’s lawyers approve the statement before they published it, which is not to say any of it is inaccurate. The Telegraph would not have stated they got these facts wrong if they got them right. They know they got them wrong, and they know the reason is that they weren’t interested enough in accuracy to check them out and confirm them.
The part about the crying on Election Night is particularly gratuitous. That’s the sort of thing that’s easy enough to determine in terms of truth or falsity. If they had one source who said she was crying and they simply ran with it, then they trusted a source who was either a) lying; or b) repeating hearsay; or c) actually knew nothing at all and pretended otherwise.
Either way, it’s the result of terrible reporting, and it’s obviously motivated by malice: Anything bad, you don’t want to check on because you might find out it’s true. Anything good, you don’t want to know. That’s how hit pieces are constructed.
The fact that the Telegraph will have to pay both in terms of money and humiliation is very good. I believe in the importance of the free press and in the power of the role it plays. I want the rights of the press protected. I also believe the press has important responsibilities.
When the role you play is that important, that influential, it is essential that you not use it irresponsibly. You should not be using your megaphone to attack and hurt people just because you don’t like them. That is an abuse of a very important privilege that needs to be smacked down hard with serious consequences.
If you don’t want to see prior restraint of publishing – and I don’t – then there needs to be very serious consequences for those who publish libel and slander, and that includes when the target is a public figure. The Telegraph clearly did that here. And whether it’s motivation was purely ideological or to pander to the preconceived biases of its readers is beside the point. They told flat-out lies about a human being and they need to suffer for that.
I think we will hear more consistent with this theme later today. And we should.