Warmist Monbiot at risk of defamation claim

Defamatory tweet?

UPDATE [19 Nov]: The Guardian has confirmed it will not be paying Monbiot’s legal fees if he is sued:

“George Monbiot is not a member of the Guardian staff and was tweeting in a personal capacity,” he said.

“George has acknowledged that his tweets were wholly inappropriate and a serious error and has posted a comprehensive apology on his own blog.

“The Guardian cannot and will not take responsibility for comments that were made by a contributor in a personal capacity, however we have taken this opportunity to remind our journalists and freelancers, including George, that they should apply the same ethical and legal standards to what they say on social media as they do to what they write for the Guardian.”

The UK’s BBC, otherwise known as the Biased Broadcasting Corporation, last week made an unfounded accusation of child abuse against a senior Conservative figure in its flagship Newsnight programme. As Boris Johnson writes, this was just too good to be true in the eyes of the lefty Beeb, and the victim, Lord McAlpine, was forced out of retirement to defend himself:

It was not just wrong: it was a slander more cruel, revolting and idiotic than anything perpetrated by the News of the World. The programme makers hadn’t taken account of the real anxieties about the reliability of their witness, as expressed by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, who led the inquiry into Bryn Estyn. They hadn’t shown him a picture of McAlpine. They hadn’t even put the allegations to McAlpine! Unbelievable! And why not? It was, as they say, a story that was too good to check. It wasn’t just that it showed Newsnight taking up the cudgels against paedophiles, after the embarrassment of the axed Savile exposé. It went one better. It pushed all the buttons. It was like a dream come true for any vaguely resentful and Left-of-centre BBC producer. It was a chance to pour unlimited ordure on a man who – in their book – jolly well had it coming. He is rich, he is a toff, he is a Lord, he is a Tory, and – joy of joys – he is an EX-AIDE TO MRS THATCHER.

The journalism was so shoddy, so cretinous, so ready to let the wish be father to the thought that the Beeb really now has to show that Newsnight was not acting with malice. The BBC cannot minimise what the programme has done. There will be people out there who will continue to believe that there is no smoke without fire, that Newsnight would never have broadcast such allegations unless there was something in it. The BBC owes it to McAlpine to grovel and keep grovelling until the public gets the message. Everyone associated with the “paedophile” segment on Newsnight should be sacked instantly.

Unfortunately, it transpires that Lord McAlpine will be suing not only the BBC for defamation, but also certain Twitter users who gleefully published his name, including left-wing warmist George Monbiot:

George Monbiot, the Guardian columnist, and Sally Bercow, the Lefty wife of the Speaker, may soon be getting stern letters from m’learned friends about their online smearing of Lord McAlpine. They were in the thick of the online lynch mob that used Twitter last week to wrongly identify the former Tory treasurer as a paedophile.

As Boris Johnson points out this morning, it’s hard to envisage a more damaging accusation against a man. Yet Monbiot and Bercow were happy to encourage this appalling falsehood, doubtless finding the very idea of a top Tory paedophile simply too irresistible to ignore. There has never been a more graphic illustration of the way Twitter can be used quite casually to destroy someone’s good name. When the truth emerged, Bercow’s apology was hardly steeped in contrition: “Final on McAlpine: am VERY sorry for inadvertently fanning flames. But I tweet as me, forgetting that to some of u I am Mrs bloody Speaker”. It is not easy to fathom what she’s on about, but that sounds like the response of a naughty schoolgirl caught telling a whopper.

In contrast, the achingly self-righteous Monbiot produced the most abject mea culpa in living memory: “I have helped to malign an innocent man. I have done a few stupid things in my life, but nothing as stupid as this. The tweets I sent which hinted – as I assumed to be the case – that Lord McAlpine was the person the child abuse victim Steve Messham was talking about were so idiotic that, looking back on them today, I cannot believe that I wrote them. But I did, and they are unforgivable. I have helped stoke an atmosphere of febrile innuendo around an innocent man, and I am desperately sorry for the harm I have done him.”

If Monbiot has put as much thought into his original tweets as into his apology, he might not now be facing the possibility of costly legal action. More importantly, the McAlpine affair may finally force those who use Twitter to realise they can’t write vile untruths about people and expect to get away with it.

Hope he’s got good lawyers…


  1. The science is settled on paedophilia – isn’t it?

  2. “am VERY sorry for inadvertently fanning flames. But I tweet as me,”

    Well you can be sued as YOU as well.

    Monbiot has a long history of failing to check stuff that is too juicy to risk not being true.

    I hope McAlpine does a thorough job on this one and does not get lulled into a forgiving mood. Someone has to take a stand against the Beeb and this is the time.

  3. odd that is is only consider wrong now, yet the founders of democracy we all for man-boy love! I wonder how the greek judiciary handle such claims?

  4. This stuff has nothing to do with AGW. I want to see Monbiot admit he was wrong about that.

  5. On the same token, that our beloved Prime Minister once said, “”I do believe Australians, watching all of that happening overseas with News Corp, are looking at News Limited here and wanting to see News Limited answer some hard questions,” which of course led to a media inquiry in Australia.

    Wonder if now she’ll say, “I do believe Australians, watching all of that happening overseas with the BBC, are looking at the ABC here and wanting to see the ABC answer some hard questions.”

    I’ll give you one guess …

  6. What “good lawyers” would stoop to defend him?


    Talking about bias:
    BREAKING: The ‘secret’ list of the BBC 28 is now public
    The list from: January 26th 2006, BBC Television Centre, London

    Robert May, Oxford University and Imperial College London
    Mike Hulme, Director, Tyndall Centre, UEA
    Blake Lee-Harwood, Head of Campaigns, Greenpeace
    Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen
    Michael Bravo, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge
    Andrew Dlugolecki, Insurance industry consultant
    Trevor Evans, US Embassy
    Colin Challen MP, Chair, All Party Group on Climate Change
    Anuradha Vittachi, Director, Oneworld.net
    Andrew Simms, Policy Director, New Economics Foundation
    Claire Foster, Church of England
    Saleemul Huq, IIED
    Poshendra Satyal Pravat, Open University
    Li Moxuan, Climate campaigner, Greenpeace China
    Tadesse Dadi, Tearfund Ethiopia
    Iain Wright, CO2 Project Manager, BP International
    Ashok Sinha, Stop Climate Chaos
    Andy Atkins, Advocacy Director, Tearfund
    Matthew Farrow, CBI
    Rafael Hidalgo, TV/multimedia producer
    Cheryl Campbell, Executive Director, Television for the Environment
    Kevin McCullough, Director, Npower Renewables
    Richard D North, Institute of Economic Affairs
    Steve Widdicombe, Plymouth Marine Labs
    Joe Smith, The Open University
    Mark Galloway, Director, IBT
    Anita Neville, E3G
    Eleni Andreadis, Harvard University
    Jos Wheatley, Global Environment Assets Team, DFID
    Tessa Tennant, Chair, AsRia

    BBC attendees:
    Jana Bennett, Director of Television
    Sacha Baveystock, Executive Producer, Science
    Helen Boaden, Director of News
    Andrew Lane, Manager, Weather, TV News
    Anne Gilchrist, Executive Editor Indies & Events, CBBC
    Dominic Vallely, Executive Editor, Entertainment
    Eleanor Moran, Development Executive, Drama Commissioning
    Elizabeth McKay, Project Executive, Education
    Emma Swain, Commissioning Editor, Specialist Factual
    Fergal Keane, (Chair), Foreign Affairs Correspondent
    Fran Unsworth, Head of Newsgathering
    George Entwistle, Head of TV Current Affairs
    Glenwyn Benson, Controller, Factual TV
    John Lynch, Creative Director, Specialist Factual
    Jon Plowman, Head of Comedy
    Jon Williams, TV Editor Newsgathering
    Karen O’Connor, Editor, This World, Current Affairs
    Catriona McKenzie, Tightrope Pictures catriona@tightropepictures.com

    BBC Television Centre, London (cont)
    Liz Molyneux, Editorial Executive, Factual Commissioning
    Matt Morris, Head of News, Radio Five Live
    Neil Nightingale, Head of Natural History Unit
    Paul Brannan, Deputy Head of News Interactive
    Peter Horrocks, Head of Television News
    Peter Rippon, Duty Editor, World at One/PM/The World this Weekend
    Phil Harding, Director, English Networks & Nations
    Steve Mitchell, Head Of Radio News
    Sue Inglish, Head Of Political Programmes
    Frances Weil, Editor of News Special Events


  8. Rathnakumar says:

    [snip – let’s not rub it in too much]

  9. Dr Ralph Hayburn says:

    How will George ever be able to look his children and grandchildren in the face?

  10. I read Monbiot’s apology on his webpage. Abject apology? The man is grovelling prostrate on the ground, licking up bits of gravel and doggie-doo and eating it to prove his sincerity. I’m guessing that The Guardian has told him he’s on-his-own insofar as defending any court action.
    Hence the world-class grovel. Full marks.

  11. Looks like George may be wrong on everything.

  12. Streetcred says:

    Our sub-prime minister of Australia has good advice for Monbiot … and I quote, “don’t print crap.”

  13. Mayor Boris writes well, but is an element of Lord McAlpine’s CV that he leaves out that explains why George Monbiot should so quickly “outed” a wholly innocent man. McAlpine was not just a leading Thatcherite, he was a very successful Conservative Party Treasurer. Monbiot’s reaction is highly consistent with his praise of Peter Gleick for using deception, and likely forgery, to “expose” the Heartland Institute funding.

  14. Will be interesting to see who gets sued as a result of this. Monbiot himself realized the strong likelihood he’d be targeted early on and wrote that abject apology. Didn’t strike me as motivated by genuine remorse; just fear he might have to cough up.

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