Decision of the Complaints Committee - 00409-19 Pallett v mirror.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Roxanne Pallett complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that mirror.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in three articles headlined:
· Roxanne Pallett SLAMS work claims ahead of TV return following [reality TV show] controversy (17.01.19);
· Roxanne Pallett's TV return branded 'a disgrace' days before [reality TV show] airs (18.01.19);
· Roxanne Pallett's spectacular fail as she brands [celebrity] INNOCENT (06.03.19).
2. The articles formed part of broader coverage regarding the complainant’s appearance on a reality TV show. Many viewers believed that the complainant had caused controversy after she had left the show following an incident with another housemate, described in the articles as the “punch gate scandal”.
3. The first article reported comments from an anonymous source who claimed that the complainant “knew a TV comeback is not going to happen anytime soon” and was “now thinking about where that next cheque will come from”. The article reported that these claims had been “slammed” by the complainant’s representatives, who had called the story “ridiculous” and “untrue”.
4. The second article reported that the complainant was shortly to appear on another reality TV show. It reported that “despite Roxanne issuing a public apology after it was proved that she had lied about the incident [in the earlier show], there is not a lot of goodwill towards her ahead of her popping up on [the new reality show]”.
5. The third article reported comments which the complainant had made on social media about a well-known pop star. It referred to her appearance in the reality TV show and reported that the complainant’s time on the show “ended in humiliation after she was caught lying about [a fellow housemate] punching her”.
6. The complainant denied that she had “lied” about the incident referred to in the articles; she said that it was accepted by the show that her fellow housemate had “punched her”. The complainant said that she had misunderstood the intention behind this action and she denied that her reaction was motivated by malice. The complainant further denied the claims by the publication’s source: she said that she did not have any money worries, nor had her work dried up. She said that she had received several offers of TV work, but had chosen to decline them for personal reasons.
7. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It provided video footage taken from the reality TV show which showed the alleged incident, and then later, footage which showed the complainant describing the alleged “punch” to her fellow housemates. It said that when asked, “show me what he did”, the complainant had responded by physically punching the housemate with force. The publication said that this did not reflect what had happened previously. As a gesture of goodwill, the publication removed the following paragraph from the second article during direct correspondence with the complainant:
“Despite Roxanne issuing a public apology after it was proved that she had lied about the incident, there is not a lot of goodwill towards her ahead of her popping up on [the new reality show]”.
8. The publication said that the first article clearly set out the complainant’s response to the claims made by the source and included a comment from her representatives that the story was “ridiculous” and “untrue”.
Relevant Code Provisions
9. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
10. The Committee noted the complainant’s denial that she had “lied” about the incident in the reality TV show, and her position that she had mistook the man’s intentions. The Committee’s role was not to determine the truth or otherwise of this claim; the question for the Committee was whether the newspaper had taken care over the reporting of the complainant’s role in the incident.
11. In this instance, the newspaper contended that the TV footage had demonstrated an apparent discrepancy between the man’s actions and the way in which the complainant had described them to her fellow housemates. In those circumstances, and where the complainant had subsequently apologised for her description of his actions, the newspaper’s characterisation of her having lied about the incident did not represent a failure to take care, and no misleading impression was given, such that a correction was required.
12. The first article did not assert as fact that the complainant had “money worries” or that her work had “dried up”. Care had been taken by the newspaper to present this as claims of source and the article had made clear that the complainant denied these claims. There was no breach of Clause 1.
13. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 15/01/2019
Date decision issued: 08/05/2019Back to ruling listing