IPSO: Daily Star misled readers with 'grubby gran' headline - but not discriminatory to describe her as 'fat'

The Daily Star "substantially" misled readers with a story headlined: "Too fat to wash! Grubby gran who weighed 20 stone didn’t have a bath for 20 years."

This was the finding of the Independent Press Standards Organisation after a complaint brought by Linda Pearson.

The article was based on an interview she gave with a press agency which revealed that she had lost 16 stone.

She said that while she had not had a bath in 20 years, she was not “grubby” because she had washed. She also said the paper wrongly said she had visited a private surgery and incorrectly stated she had a gastric band fitted, when she had a gastric bypass.

She said the headline was discriminatory and said her grandson had been bullied and missed school as a result of it.

The Star said that it corrected the article with hours of publication and added an apology which read:  “In our article 'Too fat to wash' published on 16 January 2015 we said that Linda Pearson had not had a bath for 20 years because she was too fat and had not therefore washed. This is of course untrue and we apologise to Mrs Pearson for any hurt and distress the article may have caused.”

IPSO said in an adjudication: “The article’s headline had substantially misrepresented information provided by the complainant in the interview: at no point had the complainant said she had not washed for 20 years.

“This represented a clear failure by the newspaper to take care not to publish inaccurate information, which had caused significant distress to the complainant and her family.”

It said that while it "sympathised with the complainant’s position that the inaccurate headline had been derogatory, the description of her as 'fat' did not amount to a pejorative or discriminatory reference to a physical or mental illness or disability that would engage the terms of Clause 12 [of the Editors' Code]".

As the paper has already published a correction, IPSO said not further action was required.

Read the IPSO ruling in full.

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