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Exclusive audio: Sunday Times tells Simon Lewis, “it has been recognised that the story was flawed”

Forestry experty asks paper to take down IPCC/Amazon story

Yesterday I reported that tropical forest researcher Simon Lewis had filed a 31-page official complaint against the UK’s Sunday Times. He made a compelling case that Jonathan Leake’s January 31 story “UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim” was “inaccurate, misleading and distorted.”

Now he has sent me an audio file taken from a message left on his answering machine by the Sunday Times. He also sent a statement explaining why that message is “odd,” and why he rejects their offer to finally publish his letter.

[audio:http://climateprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Lewis-audio-file1.mp3]UPDATE: A reader (!) cleaned the audio up, so you can hear that it is from the Sunday Times letters editor who, following talks with “the associate editor,” offered to print the letter Lewis wrote immediately after the article was published nearly two months (!) ago. Then she says “… it has been recognised that the story was flawed.” Here is Lewis’s statement:

Yesterday evening someone from the Sunday Times left an answerphone message at work. Out of the blue they asked if I will agree that the letter I wrote to them seven weeks ago can now be published. More importantly they now accept that the story they published is “flawed”.

This is odd for two reasons. First, following a previous communication this week with Jonathan Leake, I had already told the Sunday Times by email that, now that the Press Complaints Commission investigation is underway, all communication about this matter should be done through the PCC. Second, I won’t accept this new offer of a letter being published, as then there would be a “flawed” article that I am associated with on their website. It’s the fact that it creates the appearance that I told one thing to the Sunday Times and another to the BBC that is one of my major concerns, as it looks like I told two different versions of what scientists know about the Amazon and climate change to two different news outlets, which is not true.

It seems to me that the “flawed” article ought to now be taken down from their website and a public apology issued in its place (or let the PCC investigation run its course).

I agree that this is no time for yet another uber-lame, after-the-fact correction/letter on a dreadful piece of disinformation that has ricocheted through the media and blogosphere, disinformation that has probably been seen by well over 10 times as many people as would ever see the correction or letter.

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The Sunday Times should simply take the piece down and issue a retraction and apology. At the very least, now that they have admitted the story is “flawed,” they should take the piece down until the PCC issues its ruling.

How exactly can a newspaper criticize the IPCC for unintentionally making a slightly flawed statement — if it is unwilling to own up to its own far more deeply flawed statements — statements that Lewis has shown the newspaper knew were extremely misleading when they made them?

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