The Mirror Online broke press guidelines when it said Dhillan Bhardwaj, a 21-year-old fashion entrepreneur, said he “thought poor were scroungers” — a scrounger is a “person who borrows from or lives off others.”
But Bhardwaj never used the word scrounger, so he complained to the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
The story about Bhardwaj focused on his participation in a TV show where he lived with someone who is on benefits, given his “millionaire lifestyle” and family’s 20-bedroom home and more than 20 cars. The May 2018 story was headlined, “I made £1 million at 16 and thought poor were scroungers – until I lived like one.” The scroungers word was used in the headline, in a photo caption, and in the article.
The Mirror Online admitted Bhardwaj didn’t use the word “scroungers” but claimed, based on reporter notes, he had said “I thought a lot of people didn’t work because they were lazy, couldn’t be bothered and chose to have hand-outs instead. Now I know this isn’t the case.” As such, the site argued it was the same idea as using the word scroungers. But, the Mirror Online did tweak its headline and article to remove the word and posted a clarification.
iMediaEthics has written to Bhardwaj via Facebook and the Mirror for their responses to the ruling.
After this issue was addressed, Bhardwaj then denied that he used the words “handouts,” “lazy” or “couldn’t be bothered,” so IPSO ruled on the matter instead of any settlement or resolution of the complaint. Since Bhardwaj only later raised complaints about the “handouts”, “lazy” and “couldn’t be bothered” comments, and the site had reporter notes, IPSO rejected that complaint. But, because the headline and article suggested Bhardwaj had used the word “scroungers,” which even the site admitted he hadn’t, IPSO ruled that was an error that required correction.
The article now carries this note at the bottom:
“A previous version of this article suggested that Mr Bhardwaj referred to people on benefits as ‘scroungers’. We are happy to clarify that at no time did Mr Bhardwaj use the term ‘scroungers’.”