Daily Mail Settles J.K. Rowling Suit, Apologizes for Lying


The Daily Mail is a publication that regularly produces stories. Some of these stories are fact, some of them are based in fact and some of them are not even close to fact. But when they’ve published stories in that last category, they have to apologize and they usually do so in a big way. Enter: J.K. Rowling’s non-issues with her church.

In September, the Daily Mail printed an article (that they’ve since removed) with the moving title of “How JK Rowling’s sob story about her past as a single mother has left the churchgoers who cared for her upset and bewildered.” Good stuff! Except it turned out to be utter bullshit.

In the piece, the Daily Mail used a post Rowling wrote for the Gingerbread charity about her years as a single mom to allege that Rowling felt she had been stigmatized by members of her church before she was wealthy. The segment they expanded into a story reads:

I remember the woman who visited the church one day when I was working there who kept referring to me, in my hearing, as The Unmarried Mother. I was half annoyed, half amused: unmarried mother? Ought I to be allowed in a church at all? Did she see me in terms of some Victorian painting: The Fallen Woman, Filing, perhaps?

The Mail then went ahead and interviewed parishioners of the church who were upset that Rowling might have turned on them. (“It’s all fairly confusing,” said one. Maybe because it’s fake?) “With these kinds of great fortune, possibly it is time for Pass up Rowling to thank her lucky stars for her gilded existence as a substitute of harping on about how terrible her ton was in the earlier,” the Mail wrote. “Why, she may well even show gratitude to those who aided her in individuals much off times.”

Rowling sued the paper over the story, alleging that it had injured her reputation and made it seem as though she “accused her fellow churchgoers of behaving in a bigoted, unchristian manner towards her, of stigmatising her and cruelly taunting her for being a single mother.”

The paper has since been forced to settle with Rowling and admit online and in print that they fucked up:

Our September 28, 2013 article ‘How JK’s sob story about her single mother past surprised and confused the church members who cared for her’ suggested that JK Rowling made a knowingly false and inexcusable claim in an article for the Gingerbread charity that people at her church had stigmatised her and cruelly taunted her for being a single mother.
In fact Mrs Rowling recounted only one incident where a visitor to the church sitgmatised and taunted her on a particular day. We accept that Ms Rowling’s article did not contain any false claims and apologise for any contrary suggestion and have agreed to pay substantial damages to Ms Rowling, which she is donating to charity, and a contribution to her legal costs.

As Poynter points out, this apology sits in a long line of classic retractions by the Daily Mail, which has a history of issuing corrections by purposefully reiterating the rumors they got wrong. For example: this correction from 2012 about Prince Harry:

A spokesman for Prince Harry has asked to point out that the Prince was not drunk at the street party in Belize pictured last weekend, as may have been suggested by our headline. The Prince sampled local rum, a cocktail and fruit wine but did not drink five beers as suggested.

In the grand scheme of things, this apology to Rowling is relatively tame.

Image via Danny E. Martindale/Getty

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