The Mail Online’s Katie Hopkins falsely claimed two Muslim brothers, Tariq Mahmood and Zahid Mahmood, were extremists tied to Al Qaeda. The brothers, who were traveling to the U.S. to visit California and Disneyland, were prevented from boarding their flight from London to the U.S. in 2015, despite having obtained travel permission from U.S. Homeland Security. Hopkins argued in her column that was the right call.
Now, the Mail is paying the brothers £150,000 (about $185,000 U.S.) and legal costs over those false and incendiary claims. The newspaper also had had to publish a lengthy mea culpa, ITV reported. Hopkins’ initial column was published nearly a year ago, on Dec. 23, 2015, and was headlined “Just because Britain’s border security is a Mickey Mouse operation you can’t blame America for not letting this lot travel to Disneyland – I wouldn’t either.”
iMediaEthics has written to the Mail for more information about how the incendiary claims made it to publication.
“We are happy to make clear that Tariq Mahmood and Zahid Mahmood are not extremists, nor do they have links to Al Qaeda,” the apology read in part. Further, the Mail apologized for a second column, published Dec. 29, 2015, claiming that Tariq Mahmood’s son ran a Facebook page sharing extremist material. The Mail‘s apology said it incorrectly linked the family to the Facebook page because of an “error involving his email address” and took back its “suggestion that either Hamza nor Taeeba or Hafsa Mhamood (Hamza’s mother and sister) have any links to extremists.”
The Mail also unpublished its stories, according to the BBC. While the Mail columnist, Hopkins, did tweet the apology, she did so at 2 AM, which led to the Mahmoods’ Parliament member criticizing her for trying to bury it.
iMediaEthics has written about Hopkins’ columns a few times in recent years. Most noteworthy, 250,000 people signed a Change.org petition and more than 400 people complained to UK press regulator IPSO after she compared African migrants to cockroaches in a 2015 column for the Sun.
In January, Hopkins faced a libel lawsuit for accusing Guardian writer Jack Monroe of desecrating war memorials.
A few months ago, Hopkins was duped by a satire story claiming that the British highway M25 would be shut down for a week for a race. She said in an LBC Radio program that she hosts that she planned to attend the race to make fun of participants. Of course, the race never existed.
The Dec. 18 Mail apology reads in full:
“An article published in Katie Hopkins’ column on 23 December 2015 (‘Just because Britain’s border security is a Mickey Mouse operation you can’t blame America for not letting this lot travel to Disneyland – I wouldn’t either’) suggested that Mohammed Tariq Mahmood and his brother, Mohammed Zahid Mahmood, are extremists with links to Al Qaeda; that their purported reason for visiting the USA – namely to visit Disneyland – was a lie; and that US Homeland Security were right to prevent them from boarding their flight. We are happy to make clear that Tariq Mahmood and Zahid Mahmood are not extremists, nor do they have links to Al Qaeda. They were travelling to the USA with their families to see one of their brothers for a holiday in California and they had indeed planned to visit Disneyland as part of their trip.
“In addition a further article in Katie’s column on 29 December (‘A brave Muslim tried to warn us about the extremists taking over his community. What a tragedy it is that our PC politicians would rather not know’) suggested that Hamza Mahmood (Mohammed Tariq Mahmood’s son) was responsible for a Facebook page which allegedly contained extremist material. Our article included a photo of the family home. Hamza Mahmood has pointed out that he is not responsible for the Facebook page, which was linked to him as a result of an error involving his email address. We are happy to make clear that there is no suggestion that either Hamza nor Taeeba or Hafsa Mahmood (Hamza’s mother and sister) have any links to extremism.
“We and Katie Hopkins apologise to the Mahmood family for the distress and embarrassment caused and have agreed to pay them substantial damages and their legal costs.”
Hat Tip: The DM Reporter