Fox News has owned up and disclosed to readers that it included bad information in a Jan. 21 post about Harvard University geneticist George Church, but a few media outlets still have fake quotes published on their websites.
As iMediaEthics wrote earlier this year, Church called out the media for circulating phony quotes attributed to him claiming he could “create a Neanderthal baby, if I can find a willing woman.” Church had given an interview to the German magazine Der Spiegel in which those words were allegedly spoken. However, a transcript of that interview was published on Der Spiegel’s website and revealed that he never made those comments. Regardless of their falsity, news outlets including the UK Telegraph, Fox News and others continued to report that he was planning to “create a Neanderthal baby.”
Fox News’ original article, “Scientist seeks ‘adventurous woman’ to have Neanderthal baby,” included that fake quote about Church trying to “create a Neanderthal baby,” but interestingly noted that it had tried to no avail to fact check the Der Spiegel interview with Church before publishing. Church dismissed that as an excuse for posting the bogus comments. At the time, Church told iMediaEthics that he did respond to Fox News — about eight hours after its inquiry, as it was a national holiday. Regardless of the time it took him to respond, the transcript of his interview was on Der Spiegel’s website; had Fox News consulted the actual translation, the network would have learned he never made the comments.
But when iMediaEthics went back to the Fox News’ article on March 11, we noticed an “Editor’s note” attached to the top of the page about the phony quotes. The note links to an Associated Press story about Church’s complaints of being misquoted and reads:
“EDITOR’S NOTE: The genetics professor quoted here, George Church, said after publication of this story that his quotes to the German magazine on which this article is based were distorted. An updated version of the story appears here.”
Oddly, despite that editor’s note and tacit admission of error, the fake quote, “I can create a Neanderthal baby, if I can find a willing woman,” is still in the Fox News article.
The bad quote is also still published on the UK Independent’s website without a correction, but in a follow-up story, The Independent reported on Church’s complaints of being misquoted. iMediaEthics has written to the Independent seeking a correction.
The Independent’s follow-up story read:
“it turns out that the news of a Harvard professor looking for an ‘adventurous’ woman to give birth to a baby Neanderthal is simply not true.
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“News broke yesterday that Professor George Church of Harvard Medical School, one of the world’s leading geneticists, was planning to bring Neanderthals back to life by reconstructing their DNA and using a surrogate human mother to give birth to the baby.”
However, while linking to its previous, inaccurate article, the Independent made no mention of the fact that it was one of the outlets that misquoted Church.
Likewise, the UK Metro still has the fake quote published on its Jan. 21 article, “Scientist seeks female surrogate in order to make a Neanderthal baby.”
iMediaEthics has written to Metro asking for a correction.
And the UK Telegraph still hasn’t corrected its Jan. 20 article, “I can create Neanderthal baby, I just need willing woman,” even though iMediaEthics alerted it to the error Jan. 25. iMediaEthics again has written to the Telegraph seeking a correction.
We will update with any responses.