Friday, 22 January 2010

Littlejohn forced to write clarification because he hadn't done his research (cont.)

In Tuesday's Littlejohn column, his third missive in five days, he was doing two of his favourite things: attacking the police and writing without doing his research.

And he's been found out. Again.

Here's what he said:

Take the incoming Chief Constable of South Wales, Peter Vaughan, who told the Police Review: 'There are additional pressures now that I am a chief constable. I used to be able to walk around my local supermarket, but now someone else will do my shopping, for security reasons.'

The level of pomposity and lack of self-awareness is astonishing. I doubt anyone in South Wales could even pick him out of a line-up. Personal shoppers are something you associate with spoilt ladies who lunch.

For years, we were subjected to the bizarre ramblings of the Mad Mullah of the Traffic Taliban in North Wales, who seemed to think he was some kind of superstar.

Now along comes Peter Vaughan, a man who is so full of his own importance that he is afraid to walk round Tesco without a bodyguard.

It never really sounded as if this would be the whole (or indeed, any of the) story. One of the comments that the moderators let through suggested as much:

And so, inevitably, enjoyably, in Friday's column, Littlejohn backtracks:

In my last column I lampooned the new Chief Constable of South Wales, Peter Vaughan, for saying that he could no longer go shopping for 'security reasons'.

This widely-reported remark was taken from an interview he gave to Police Review.

The magazine initially said it stood by its story, but has now put out a statement in which Mr Vaughan denies ever saying it.

If I have unfairly maligned him, then I'm happy to put the record straight.

He ends with a pisspoor joke that's not worth repeating (and it's questionable that calling someone 'pompous' and 'full of his own importance' really counts as lampooning).

But look at what's he's done. He certainly hasn't apologised. He says 'if' he has spread lies about Vaughan he is happy to put the record straight, despite it being perfectly clear he has. 'If' doesn't come into it. It's a classic newspaper non-apology.

Yet there's one thing Littlejohn makes absolutely clear. It wasn't his fault. He's not to blame for vacuously repeating something he read elsewhere.

Of course, he could have contacted Vaughan and asked him if it was true, but that would have meant doing a bit of research and we know Littlejohn doesn't do that if he can help it. And besides, the cost of phoning Wales from Florida is probably quite high.

But he didn't even have to do that. Because Vaughan issued a letter that was published on the South Wales Police website on 15 January - three days before Littlejohn's column appeared.

Vaughan made his position very clear:

“I am writing in relation to a story that has appeared in many of today’s national newspapers, seemingly suggesting that I have “security concerns” about venturing into supermarkets!

“This wholly inaccurate “story” originates from a telephone interview I gave on my first day in office on January 4th this year to the Police Review magazine.


At no point during the interview did I mention that I would have to stop using a supermarket for “security reasons”. What I did say is that I occasionally like to visit the Tesco store opposite police HQ to get a break from work and that this may prove a little more difficult because people like to talk to me and what would have been a quick visit may take longer.

“I have requested that the Editor of the Police Review magazine publishes a fulsome correction and apology with immediate effect and I will be contacting other media outlets in due course.

“Meanwhile, I wish to draw to your personal attention to the reality behind the spurious nonsense you may have been greeted by in today’s mainstream media outlets.”

Littlejohn wasn't the only one to cover the story. The Times, Express and the Telegraph did too, which is probably where he stole it from.

But at least they all ran it before Vaughan's denial. Not three days after.

If Littlejohn had bothered to do even the slightest bit of fact-checking, he wouldn't have written such rubbish in the first place, and wouldn't have needed to be forced to issue the clarification.

Is it really too much to ask from the Mail's 'star columnist'?


  1. But almost nobody in the media bothers doing any research any more. If it runs in one paper on Monday then it runs in all of them on Tuesday. No need to check with the people concerned or anything, it was in the paper so it must be true!

    On Question Time last night Andrew Roberts (the 'historian' who famously wrote that Russian troops "marched East" across Europe) cheerily recounted the "Mylene Klass was cautioned by police for waving a knife at burglars" myth as evidence of all that was wrong with modern society, even though it had been comprehensively debunked a week earlier. And not a single person on the panel picked him up on it. Makes me very angry.

  2. You can't seriously expect Richard Littlebrain to know what "spurious" means. Or "reality".


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