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September 14, 2023updated 15 Sep 2023 11:19am

Matt Hancock scores complaint victory versus Mirror over ‘Matt’s finished’ story

It's not long since the former health secretary lost IPSO complaints against the Mirror - now he has a victory.

By Dominic Ponsford

Former health secretary Matt Hancock has had an accuracy complaint against the Daily Mirror upheld after it reported that he had called off his search for a celebrity agent.

Press regulator IPSO ruled that the Mirror was wrong to present two articles based on an anonymous single source as fact.

The latest ruling comes after Hancock had complaints over a prior series of Mirror articles rejected. The regulator had said it was OK for the tabloid to describe him as “a failed health secretary and cheating husband who broke the lockdown rules he wrote, doubled down on the lies he told, helped enrich his mates via the infamous VIP PPE lane, and couldn’t resist monetising the infamy he acquired as a result of his ineptitude at managing the pandemic”.

Matt Hancock agent claim denied by spokesperson

The latest complaint relates to articles headlined “Don’t call us” and “Matt”s finished” published by the Mirror on 28 December 2022.

The first article reported: “Matt Hancock has called off his search for a celebrity agent as his bid for fame fails to get off the ground.”

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The second article was a short leader piece which stated that “dropping his search for an agent, camel penis eater Hancock is discovering you sometimes need to have talent to achieve fame”.

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The first article included a denial quote from Hancock’s spokesperson but the second did not.

IPSO‘s complaint report includes an account of a text conversation between a Mirror journalist and Hancock’s spokesman.

Journalist: “Hiya. How’s it going? We are doing up a story for use over the festive period on how Matt is looking for a showbiz agent. Let me know if you’d like us to include a comment. Thanks”

Spokesperson: “Hi. I’ll come back to you but just FYI that is not true. He is actively not doing that, so writing it would be untrue”

Journalist: “thanks. there seems to be a pattern where stuff is claimed to be untrue and then it turns out to be correct. on this one, we are confident that Matt is looking around for an agent and has been actively seeking advice”

Spokesperson: “Really? Like what?!”

Journalist: “it was untrue he was writing a book. and then he did”

Spokesperson: “It was at the time. The book came about from a false story!!”

Journalist: “He had no plans to stand down as an MP. and then he did”

Spokesperson: “Can people not change their minds? Have you not thought you’d do one thing and then end up doing something different?! Look, I’ll come back to you”

Spokesperson: “But I know that particular claim is not true as he doesn’t want one”

Spokesperson: “Matt has had lots of offers from agents wanting to represent him, but he’s turned them all down as he doesn’t want or need an agent.”

This last comment was included in the first Mirror story.

The Mirror said the source who provided the information the articles were based on was “well trusted” but it could not name them.

IPSO said: “By reporting the claims as fact, rather than identifying them as a claim from a source, both articles failed to distinguish between comment and fact, and there was a breach of Clause 1,” the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code of Practice. It also said that both articles should have included Hancock’s denial.

Upholding the complaint it required the Mirror to publish appropriate corrections. The online news article now states at the top: “This article reports as fact that Matt Hancock has dropped his search for a celebrity agent as no one wanted to represent him. In fact, this was a claim made by a single anonymous source, which we reported as fact in a misleading way by not identifying it as a claim made by a source.”

Read the IPSO adjudication in full.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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