The Guardian today offered an apology for the headline for their profile of the Chairman of MigrationWatch and also printed a letter of rebuttal.
The following is the (slightly edited) exchange of e-mails:
Dear Sir Andrew,
Thank you for your letter which, for the moment, has been passed to me in the office of the readers' editor. May I make a suggestion to separate the issue of the misleading headline from your argument about Home Office figures?
I propose running a correction in the daily Corrections and clarifications column, which has the benefit of becoming permanently attached to the article in our database and on the website.
It could read as follows. 'In our profile of Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch the headline, which stated, "A great ambassador — with worrying views on race", was not supported by the text of the story, which stated the opposite on more than one occasion (page 17, November 4). The headline was changed in later editions to "A great ambassador — with some worrying views". Neither headline should have appeared within quote marks since neither statement appeared in the article. We wish to apologise to Sir Andrew for the misleading impression created.'
I am afraid that I cannot accept your proposal as sufficient. This is a serious matter. You have published a profile under a page lead headline that was a concocted quotation which was, in my view clearly defamatory. There were also innuendos in the article itself. In the context both of an ex-ambassador and the Chairman of a think tank on migration issues such defamatory innuendos are particularly sensitive and regrettable.
The PCC Code of Practice is very clear. It states, as I am sure you know, that "A fair opportunity to reply to in-accuracies must be given to individuals or organisations when reasonably called for." You have acknowledged that the headline was not supported by the article, that it was not the quotation it purported to be and that a misleading impression was created. Accordingly, I renew my request that my letter be published in full and in a suitably prominent position.
Text of letter published on 8 November:
Your profile of myself (4 November) entitled "A great ambassador - with worrying views on race" comes close to being a smear. Although the headline is in quotation marks, there is no such quote in the article. Indeed, the first sentence says the opposite - namely that my friends and former colleagues are unanimous that I am not a racist.
So why would a former Ambassador break away from the "comfort zone" of Middle East receptions? Precisely to counter the growth of right-wing extremism that, throughout Europe, is exploiting the tensions which arise from large scale immigration.
According to your article, the Home Office disputes our figures. However, an internal e-mail, released to us under freedom of information rules, gives a different impression:
“I’ve made this point many times before but can we please stop saying that Migrationwatch forecasts are wrong. I’ve pointed out before that their assumptions are often below the Government Actuary’s Department high migration variant.”
The government’s latest principal projection shows immigration adding six million to our population over the next three decades – 83% of our population increase.
I do not believe that we can absorb immigrants on anything like this scale. The Chairman of the CRE denies any link between the scale of immigration and the failure to integrate but, courageously, has pointed out that we are sleepwalking towards segregation. The events in Paris must surely be a cautionary tale.
In 2001 I found myself both in a position to know of the weaknesses in our immigration system and faced with an opportunity to make the facts known to the public. After considerable thought I decided that it was my duty to do so.
A. F. GREEN
Chairman, Migrationwatch UK