Former Observer editor Roger Alton has again denied that allegations about the paper’s reporting of the run-up to the Iraq war, made in Guardian contributor Nick Davies’s new book, led to his resignation last October.
“The idea that I left The Observer because of this book is about as likely as the Taj Mahal turning out to be a space ship, or the Jews being responsible for 9/11 or that the sun comes up in the middle of the night,” Alton told the Sunday Herald, which today published details of the chapter about the Observer in Davies’ book, Flat Earth News.
According to the Sunday Herald piece, Davies’s book holds up the Observer’s coverage of the war as an example of journalism gone badly wrong, largely because of former Observer executive editor Kamal Ahmed’s close relationship with former Downing Street spin doctor Alastair Campbell and former editor Roger Alton’s alleged political inexperience.
Speaking to the Sunday Herald, Davies repeated his denial of suggestions that Rusbridger had had advance knowledge of the contents of his book.
When both Ahmed and Alton resigned last October, reports in the Telegraph, Independent, and Mail, suggested that it had been prompted by a dispute between Alton and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger over the book.
Alton has previously denied that he resigned over a conflict with Rusbridger over the book or the sister titles’ online integration plans.
“I’ve never had any conflict with anybody,” he said last month in an interview with Press Gazette.
In that interview, Alton said some further integration of the two papers was now necessary and also defended Ahmed: “Kamal is one of the best journalists I have ever worked with and of the highest integrity, so if anybody impinges his integrity I’ll go and punch his fucking face in.”