In an October 12 article, the newspaper The Times printed a story alleging that a certain group of scientists were involved in a pay-for-play scheme with Big Tobacco. The article claimed that several researchers who had recently attended the Global Forum on Tobacco and Nicotine in Brussels were being secretly funded by cigarette companies in exchange for publishing misleading research and data on electronic cigarettes. Now, these scientists are planning on suing the paper for defamation and libel even though The Times has already printed an apology and clarification to the initial story.
The Times ‘apology’ causes even more anger
The trouble with the apology is that it seems to be rather one-sided. The Times apologized to one scientist in particular, the Former Director General of Wales, Clive Bates, but left out several of the others. Bates is also the former leader of the Action on Smoking and Health and is a very high profile figure in the UK who is often interviewed via mainstream media. The other scientists mentioned wonder if this is a reason why Bates received special treatment in the form of a public apology while the others did not.
“My life’s work has been built on helping reduce the death toll from tobacco smoking. Yet The Times has portrayed me and my colleagues as hirelings of big tobacco. The Times has chosen to traduce our reputations. Now it is time for the paper to profusely apologize or face a battle it will not win.” -Karl Fagerstrom“My reputation has been trashed by The Times. Despite ample evidence of my independence, it claimed that I am beholden to big tobacco companies. It is like saying that Robin Hood was in the pay of the Sheriff of Nottingham. I have to fight this.” -David Sweanor
The Times correction stated that there was no evidence that Bates had accepted any funds from Big Tobacco and that he had, in fact, funded his own transportation and hotel accommodations during his trip to Brussels. Meanwhile, the paper seemed to have glossed over their other previous claims that Professors David Nutt, Karl Fagerstrom, David Sweanor, and Riccardo Polosa had received “tens of thousands of pounds from tobacco companies to carry out research into e-cigarettes”. The apology has since been update and can be viewed online at The Times website.
Article Credit: Matt Rowland