The New Statesman has today parted company with Mehdi Hasan as its senior editor, politics.
Mehdi is an effective polemicist, increasingly beloved of BBC discussion programmes – but the job needed more reporting scruples than he possessed, and his temper sometimes get the better of him. My own experience with this came in November 2010. I’d done something to annoy Mehdi – not that hard – so he accused me (in his New Statesman blog) of a long list of crimes including working for the Iranian state-funded broadcaster, Press TV. “Sources at Press TV tell me Gilligan is among the highest-paid, if not the highest-paid, employee at the channel,” wrote Mehdi, asking: “So, Andrew, when will you quit your lucrative job at Press TV?”
The answer to that question was “eleven months before.” Because if Mehdi had actually spoken to any “sources at Press TV” in November 2010, he would have been told that I was not, in fact, “among the highest-paid employees at the channel,” nor indeed in any kind of relationship with them at all. I can only conclude that he had not, in fact, spoken to anyone at Press TV – and that he had made up this quote to further his untruth.
I did present a fortnightly discussion show on Press TV, in which the policies of the Iranian government were often debated and challenged. But I stopped in December 2009. I have not worked for Press TV since, with the exception of two one-off shows in the week of the general election in May 2010, almost six months before Mehdi’s “sources” told him I was its highest paid employee.
The fact that I had left Press TV was also clearly stated on my Wikipedia entry, from which Mehdi quoted elsewhere in his post, and had been reported in the press. Any competent journalist would have checked this. (Fascinatingly, and with slightly Hari-esque overtones, my Wikipedia entry – favoured propaganda battleground for my critics – was changed five days later to put a flattering gloss on Mehdi’s blogpost, including a claim that he had “revealed” new facts about my work for the station.)
I did complain to the New Statesman – they claimed that it was a genuine quote but that Mehdi’s “source” had given him “inaccurate information.” Press TV is a small operation run out of about seven rooms; nobody at the station could have been unaware that I’d left the previous year. They added a note to the bottom of the piece, but continue to publish the made-up quote to this day.
Anyway, best of luck at the Huffington Post, Mehdi – hope they’re paying you!