NME editor Conor McNicholas has denied that his magazine portrayed singer Morrissey as racist, as a row between the two sides over an interview escalated this week.
On the letters page of NME, McNicholas states: ‘Morrissey is not a racist. He says so in the piece and I was at pains to include that quote (‘I’ve never heard a good arguement in favour of racism’) to make sure that was clear.”
The former Smiths frontman has accused McNicholas of a ‘personal need to mis-state, misreport, misquote, misinterpret, falsify, and incite the bloodthirsty”. He has now issued writs against the magazine and the editor for defamation.
Morrissey said he ‘abhors’racism and said he issued the writs ‘as I believe they have deliberately tried to characterise me as a racist in a recent interview I gave them in order to boost their dwindling circulation”.
The interview, published in last week’s NME, focused on comments in which Morrissey lamented the loss of English identity in a multicultural society. NME called his use of language clumsy in ‘sensitive times”.
The magazine requested a second telephone conversation conducted by journalist Tim Jonze to clarify. Morrissey called his comments ‘statements of fact’and not inflammatory. NME said his words ‘smacked of a naÃ¯ve hypocrisy’and ‘mostly sounds like the ravings of a rogue Tory MP”.
Online wrangling continued this week, with Morrissey manager Merck Mercuriadis clashing with Jonze over an email in which the journalist appeared to disassociate himself from the article. The piece’s byline read: ‘Interview: Tim Jonze, words: NME.’
Jonze has since said that Morrissey’s quotes were 100 per cent accurate, but he had asked for his byline to be removed because none of his opinions or arguments were included.
Phil Sherrell, media lawyer at Eversheds said the NME front page, which quotes Morrissey from the article, could be crucial should the case go to court. He said: ‘Morrissey’s principal claim appears to be that the front page accuses him of being a racist. Many people will see the front without ever reading the article inside to get the context, so NME will stand or fall by what’s on the front and can’t rely on pointing to the contents of the article inside to say the overall allegation was weaker or different. The same risks can apply to headlines which misrepresent the contents of articles.
‘The court will always allow some editorial judgement on the part of a publication as to how it presents a story. But if it is the case that quotes have been moved around to give them a different meaning and in particular that the front page doesn’t represent the actual story, that will put IPC in a difficult position.”
The row reignites a row between the two parties that led to a 12-year rift. Following a performance in 1992 where Morrissey draped himself with a Union Jack, NME accused him of flirting with nationalistic imagery. Morrissey responded by accusing the publication of trying to end his career.