Mehdi Hasan: liar leaves job

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!

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Mehdi Hasan: New Statesman's senior editor makes up quote

Mehdi Hasan, the New Statesman’s senior editor (politics), obviously didn’t like my mockery of his less-than-probing interview with the extremist-backed mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman. It’s drawn him into a long, angry and I think very unwise riposte on his New Statesman blog.

It’s unwise because it exposes Mr Hasan, like so many other Islamist sympathisers, as a liar. He accuses me of working for the Iranian state-funded broadcaster, Press TV, and states: “Sources at Press TV tell me Gilligan is among the highest-paid, if not the highest-paid, employee at the channel.” He asks: “So, Andrew, when will you quit your lucrative job at Press TV?”

The answer to that question is “eleven months ago.” Because if Mehdi Hasan had actually spoken to any “sources at Press TV,” he would have been told that I am not, in fact, “among the highest-paid employees at the channel,” nor indeed any sort of employee at all. He would have been told that I have not worked for Press TV for nearly a year. I can only conclude that he did not, in fact, speak to anyone at Press TV – and that he made up this quote to further his untruth.

I did present a regular discussion show on the station, in which Islamism, and the policies of the Iranian government, were often debated and challenged. But I stopped last December, in part for precisely the reason Mr Hasan says – taking the Iranian shilling was inconsistent with my opposition to Islamism. I have not worked for Press TV since. The only exception is two one-off shows I presented for them in the week of the general election in May, more than six months ago. (Mr Hasan, though this must have slipped his mind, was one of the guests!)

The fact that I left Press TV last year is also clearly stated on my Wikipedia entry, from which Mr Hasan quotes in his post, and has been reported in the press. Any competent journalist would have checked this. Mr Hasan also includes a number of other claims – that I am a “propagandist” for instance – which are untrue and for which I have successfully taken legal action against one of my other critics.

Mehdi Hasan attacks what he claims is my “biased journalism” and selective quotation, without alas giving any examples that stand up to scrutiny. Selective quotation is not when you take a piece from a longer quote – it’s when you select from a quote in a way that changes its meaning. But Mr Hasan has himself been caught in that most serious of journalistic crimes – making up a quote.

(PS – Just in case Mehdi is tempted to change his post, or take it down, I do of course have copies.)