Carole Cadwalladr has apologised for wrongly claiming that prominent Brexiteer Arron Banks “had been found to have broken the law” in his role as founder of the Leave.EU campaign.
In a statement on Twitter this morning, the Guardian and Observer journalist said she accepted her tweet making this claim on 22 October this year was false and had deleted it.
She said: “On 22 Oct 2020, I tweeted that Arron had been found to have broken the law. I accept he has not. I regret making this false statement, which I have deleted. I undertake not to repeat it.
“I apologise to Arron for the upset and distress caused.”
Cadwalladr is engaged in a legal dispute with Banks, who is suing her for defamation in the High Court. The case, which centres around allegations of foreign interference in the Leave campaign, first appeared before the court in December, at which both parties were present.
Banks has since dropped two elements of his claim, but continues to pursue damages over a Ted Talk in April last year given by Cadwalladr and a tweet from her account linking to the talk, posted in June last year.
Ruling on the meaning of the words in the Ted Talk and related tweet, Mr Justice Saini said they meant: “On more than one occasion Mr Banks told untruths about a secret relationship he had with the Russian Government in relation to acceptance of foreign funding of electoral campaigns in breach of the law on such funding.”
The Guardian Media Group is not covering Cadwalladr’s legal costs in defending the case. The journalist has turned to crowdfunding for financial help to continue fighting the claim, raising more than £167,000 so far.
On her crowdfunding page, Cadwalladr said Banks was “targeting me as an individual I believe to deliberately intimidate me”, but said she is “fighting back” and intended “to build the strongest defence possible”.
In a tweet following her now deleted post, she said: “…I do literally face losing my home because of the state of Britain’s libel laws.”
The UK’s Electoral Commission found Leave.EU had breached electoral spending law during the EU Referendum campaign, but the Met Police described these as “technical breaches” and said there was “insufficient evidence to justify any further criminal investigation”.
The UK’s National Crime Agency said it had found no evidence of criminal activity carried out by Leave.EU or Banks after investigating potential offences over £8m in Leave campaign spending.
Cadwalladr won a number of awards for breaking the story that Cambridge Analytica had been harvesting Facebook data in an apparent attempt to influence the outcome of the 2016 US presidential elections.
Picture: Reuters/Hannah McKay and Press Gazette