The Telegraph journalist who came after Jack and his family needs to be fired

Allison Pearson and Jack Williment-Barr
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A four-year-old boy with suspected pneumonia was forced to sleep on the floor of an under-resourced, overworked NHS hospital. The image released of that boy shook voters and made them think twice about voting for the party responsible, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives. But one right-wing journalist claimed she was about to expose the whole story as an elaborate stunt. That was until her “source” appeared to be nothing more than a right-wing troll farm.

A bad day for Boris Johnson

Yorkshire Evening Post journalist Daniel Sheridan was sent the picture of four-year-old Jack Williment-Barr by his mother. The shocking image of Jack sleeping on the floor of Leeds General Infirmary went viral and created a tsunami of negative press for Johnson. This was only made worse when a journalist tried to show Johnson the image, only for the PM to wrestle the phone away and shove it into his own pocket:


The exchange revealed a prime minister unwilling even to look at the results of his party’s policies.

Enter the bots

But soon Twitter accounts began spreading the entirely false rumour that the photo was faked by Labour activists. All the accounts began by claiming to know a member of NHS staff who had revealed the ruse:

The tweets used identical phrasing and even those without journalism training were able to grasp something was amiss:

But Telegraph journalist Allison Pearson seemed slightly behind the curve. Pearson is the paper’s chief interviewer and author of such fascinating columns as If Extinction Rebellion cut the dreadlocks, they’d get their message to more people. Insightful.

Pearson claimed to be breaking this story herself:

Pearson's tweet

It appears she simply regurgitated one of the tweets as fact. The troll farm activity was reported by Metro, and then broke into a full-scale fake news crisis for the Telegraph.

Daniel Sheridan took to Twitter to fight back, detailing his investigation for the Yorkshire Evening Post:

And Leeds General Infirmary also confirmed the events happened as described:

The owner of the Facebook post that triggered the troll activity told the Guardian:

I was hacked. I am not a nurse and I certainly don’t know anyone in Leeds…I’ve had to delete everything as I have had death threats to myself and my children.

Dereliction of duty

What Pearson did here was unacceptable. She publicly accused a sick child’s family of being liars. She presented the opinions of Twitter trolls as a robust source. And she failed to do even the most cursory research to verify her claims. By doing so she (at the very least) contributed to the harassment of Jack’s family, and the owner of the original Facebook post:

This is a failure so immense that it’s almost irrelevant whether it was wilful or an act of gross incompetence. Because either amounts to such shattering stupidity that Pearson should already have cleared her desk.

Featured image via YouTube – Working Families / YEP

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  • Show Comments
    1. So the PM is behaving like a phone snatching thief … no surprise there, and Pearson has committed an illegal criminal act – Defamation of Character against the so-called-leaker, and against the Parents.

      This is criminality being ignored and painted as ‘opinion’, why are the courts not full with these criminals? Right now many Tories, Lib Dems, some Blairites, and huge swathes of the MSM, not to mention those who repeat those lies as facts, are being allowed to commit criminal acts with impunity. Why has no one from the Legal side of our nation enforced the law in this regard? These criminal acts ruin reputations and lives, and put people in very real danger, the laws on Defamation of Character, and Libel, are there to help prevent, and to prosecute such acts.

      To me this shows very clearly that corruption is deeply rooted in our Political, Judicial, and Media institutions, and that we desperately need to ‘clean house’ in the UK by voting Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10.

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