The Guardian‘s week has gone from bad to worse. Its editorial praising ex-US President George W Bush met with complete condemnation. And while still reeling from that, the outlet is having to face up to yet another error in judgment.
It essentially painted an ex-Tory MP as a “well-sourced investigative journalist”. And it did so just as that ex-MP, Louise Mensch, was busy making evidence-free claims online.
The first scoop
The Guardian ran a story on Mensch on 17 February. It described how the ex-Corby MP – now an employee at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. – had published an article in Heat Street about an intelligence services investigation into Donald Trump’s team for its potential ties to Russia. The Guardian explained that Mensch had “learned the secret that eluded even the best journalists”.
But exactly how did Mensch score a story that even the “best journalists” couldn’t? Because she is “a pro-national security partisan”. Or that’s what she told The Guardian, at least. The spies trusted her, she alleged, because of her attacks on anyone who dares to challenge their authority or the legality of their actions. Like, for example, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The second scoop
On 24 February, Mensch took to Twitter to share more of her insight:
I absolutely believe that Andrew Breitbart was murdered by Putin, just as the founder of RT was murdered by Putin.
— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) February 24, 2017
Alongside actual investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald’s mocking response, Mensch’s evidence-free theory faced further ridicule:
@ggreenwald Putin also shot Kennedy & Reagan, killed Alexander the Great & all of the babies we thought were Genghis Khan's. Nope, Putin's.
— The Known Unknowns (@Known__Unknowns) February 24, 2017
@ggreenwald I absolutely believe that Putin is the source of my dog's bad breath, because there is no other logical explanation.
— Jeremy Lykins (@Jeremy_Lykins) February 24, 2017
@ggreenwald Who among us has not been murdered by Putin at least once?
— ?wisedorf (@wisedorf) February 24, 2017
The poop scoop
Further intrigue then arrived as the ‘founder of RT‘ waded into the debate:
— Bryan MacDonald (@27khv) February 28, 2017
The person who said “I’m kinda still alive” is Margarita Simonyan. And she has been RT‘s Editor-in-Chief since its creation in 2005. Mensch was possibly referring to Mikhail Lesin, though, who is said to have come up with the idea of RT. Lesin died in a Washington hotel room, as a result of “blunt force injuries”, in 2015.
Andrew Breitbart, meanwhile, is said to have died of heart failure. He was founder of the Breitbart News Network.
Whether there was any Russian state, or other state, involvement in these deaths is as yet unknown. So no investigative journalist should publicly make such claims, like Mensch did, without evidence to back them up.
In short, Mensch isn’t as “well-sourced” as The Guardian thought. So its appraisal of the ex-Tory MP was somewhat misguided, to say the least. But that seems to be a bit of a thing of late.
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