Louise Mensch in PCC dispute over Tea Party blog posts

Conservative MP Louise Mensch has complained to the Press Complaints Commission over three blog posts which identified her with Sarah Palin and the right-wing Tea Party movement in the US.

The complaint was resolved after the New Statesman agreed to offer her right of reply by writing a blog post clarifying her position, the PCC said in an adjudication today. The watchdog said that readers may have been misled by the summary of the MP’s opinions provided in the blog posts.

Mensch complained that three blog posts published in September and October 2010 and June 2011 on the New Statesman website headlined “the Rise of Sarah Palin’s ‘mama grizzlies'”, “Cameron, the Tea Party and a little backbench problem” and “Palin is coming to London”, were innaccurate.

Mensch said that, following an interview with the New Statesman, her views on Sarah Palin and the Tea Party had been misrepresented.

She said that the New Statesman had wrongly made her out to be a cheerleader for both Ms Palin and the Tea Party. While Mensch accepted that she had made reference to the “birth of a new political star” in Sarah Palin, she said that she did not identify with social conservatism but had espoused a feminist and non-social conservative viewpoint in the interview.

The New Statesman said it did not accept that it had misrepresented Mensch’s views, and provided a transcript of the interview. It offered her the right of reply, which she accepted provided that it was accompanied by the following suggested correction:

“The New Statesman accepts that Louise Mensch MP does not support the Tea Party or the ‘Mama Grizzlies’, and that in her interview with us, when asked if she took inspiration from the Tea Party, she replied ‘No, absolutely not’. We also accept that she singled out Christine O’Donnell, whose photograph we used to illustrate our blogpost, as a candidate she would never have endorsed.”

The New Statesman said that it did not believe the correction was warranted and declined to publish it. The PCC agreed with this stating that the right of reply was “sufficient remedial action”.

The PCC said the complaint rested large on “matters of interpretation”. It said: “On balance, the commission considered that readers may well have been misled by the summary of the complainant’s opinions as presented by the blog postings…the commission decided that the most appropriate manner of correcting the record would be through the publication of an opportunity to reply from the complainant in another blog.”

New Statesman, like Press Gazette, is part of the Progressive Media group.

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