FACTCHECK: BBC correspondent under fire for promoting a false claim by Donald Trump

BBC
Support us and go ad-free

BBC North America Editor Jon Sopel has come under fire for validating a false claim made by US President Donald Trump.

The state visit

Owing to widespread opposition, Trump has announced the cancellation of his state visit to the UK.

When Theresa May agreed to the visit despite public outcry, campaigners planned to protest the President’s arrival with the ‘biggest rally in UK history’. This forced May to backtrack. Trump would visit for two days next month to open the new £750m US embassy. The year-long delay and absence of “red carpet treatment” reportedly outraged Trump, who finally cancelled.

In a face-saving measure, the President claimed the move was due to former President Barack Obama’s decision to relocate the US embassy “off location”.

And Jon Sopel seemed to back up Trump’s excuse.

But a simple factcheck proves Trump’s claim false.

The truth

It was the George W Bush administration that decided to move the US embassy, and chose the new site at Nine Elms. Grosvenor Square had housed the US embassy since 1938, and US links to the affluent spot go back two centuries. But security concerns meant the US relocated its embassy to an industrial estate south of the river.

Announcing the decision in 2008, Bush Jr’s ambassador Robert Tuttle said:

This has been a long and careful process…We looked at all our options, including renovation of our current building…

In the end, we realized that the goal of a modern, secure and environmentally sustainable Embassy could best be met by constructing a new facility.

He continued:

As the United Kingdom is our best friend and best ally, we wanted to be as close to parliament and government buildings as the current site and we have achieved that.

This information was widely available. And Sopel’s failure to conduct a basic factcheck was spotted quickly by journalists and public alike.

It also seems that the current US Ambassador to London has no such problem with the new location:

The reaction

News of the cancelled visit is unlikely to do Trump much harm among his supporters. Some took to social media to express relief, wishing to avoid a public spectacle and keen for the President to focus on domestic issues.

But the news has delighted critics from both sides of the Atlantic, including London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

This was not a good week for Donald Trump. And it was not a good week for the BBC‘s Jon Sopel. But it was far worse for Theresa May. The Prime Minister is desperate to secure a positive trade deal with the US to counter potential losses from Brexit. So she spent political capital she didn’t have to give Trump what he wanted in hopes of securing a deal. And the Prime Minister failed to secure any of it. No trade deal, no state visit, and even worse relations with both the UK public and the White House.

Get Involved!

– Support the work of Hope Not Hate.

– Support the work of Stop Funding Hate, which campaigns for advertisers to stop funding media outlets that promote prejudice.

Featured image via YouTube screengrab/Gage Skidmore (Flickr)

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed