I have helped to malign an innocent man.
By George Monbiot, published on monbiot.com, 10th November 2012
I have done a few stupid things in my life, but nothing as stupid as this. The tweets I sent which hinted – as I assumed to be the case – that Lord McAlpine was the person the child abuse victim Steve Messham was talking about were so idiotic that, looking back on them today, I cannot believe that I wrote them.
But I did, and they are unforgiveable. I helped to stoke an atmosphere of febrile innuendo around an innocent man, and I am desperately sorry for the harm I have done him. I have set out, throughout my adult life, to try to do good; instead I have now played a part in inflicting a terrible hurt upon someone who had done none of the harm of which he was wrongly accused. I apologise abjectly and unreservedly to Lord McAlpine.
What follows is in no sense an attempt to excuse the tweets I wrote, but simply to try to explain them.
I knew that Steve Messham had been treated appallingly, and I believed that the terrible things done to him had been compounded by a denial of recognition and a denial of the recourse to the law which was his due. When I saw his interview on Newsnight I was very upset. I trusted his account unquestioningly. I was horrified by what he said, and by the fact that the identity of the man he was talking about appeared to have been kept secret for so long.
I felt a powerful compulsion to do what I have done throughout my career: to help the voiceless be heard. But in this case I did so without any of the care I usually take when assessing and reporting an issue. I allowed myself to be carried away by a sense of moral outrage. As a result, far from addressing an awful injustice, I contributed to one.
I have acted in an unprofessional, thoughtless and cruel manner, and I am sorry beyond words.