“A Misogynist Pig” – How the BBC Smeared Sir Tim Hunt

Making A Complaint – links in this paragraph

If you’ve been wondering “What can do about Tim Hunt’s treatment?’ wonder no more. You can make a complaint to the BBC. There is a time-limit on these complaints, which is why I publish this final blog today. If, after reading this evidence, you agree that the BBC has been biased and/or misreported, please use the link here to write your own complaint. The misreporting is still live on the BBC websites and social media. The ability to complain is not limited to UK residents, but to any who read or see this media.

I asked Professor Mary Collins, wife of Sir Tim Hunt, for comment about some of the evidence cited in this article. Professor Collins expressed disappointment that the BBC had attributed as quotes words Sir Tim did not in fact say, and had wrongly used the word “sexist” without quotes. She also objected to  mischaracterisation of a particular ironic reference to Sir Tim’s own life as remarks about women scientists in general; and to the BBC’s presentation of accusations made by some journalists as facts.

I hope you will join me in doing so as well by adding your objection to a complaint.

THE BBC’s BIAS ON SIR TIM HUNT

The coda to my reporting on Sir Tim Hunt is to examine the final piece of the puzzle, which is how the BBC falsely reported him. This matters because Sir Tim’s detractors and persecutors are still relying on the BBC’s distortion as a last line of defence.

Irrelevant colquhoun J

In the UK, the BBC also matter because they are the nation’s public service broadcaster. They are required to be impartial and fair. The charges against the BBC are as follows:

1. They prepared their Today show report in a biased manner; they chose two critics of Hunt as guests instead of balancing the show with an opposing viewpoint. This breaches the BBC’s duty of impartiality.

2. The BBC misquoted Sir Tim Hunt repeatedly, attributing words to him as quotes which he did not say; either in Seoul or in their audio. This is a further and a very serious breach of impartiality, made worse by a refusal to correct the record when the error was pointed out to them.

3. The BBC mischaracterized Sir Tim Hunt’s remarks repeatedly, falsely stating he had made observations about women scientists in general in his joke instead of talking about his his own life and marriage to Professor Mary Collins, whom he had met in the lab.

4. The BBC stated as fact things that Connie St. Louis alleged; and, as we know now, these things did not happen.

5. The BBC repeatedly breached its charter obligations by stating without quotation marks that Sir Tim made sexist remarks when in fact, his joke was against sexism; and by falsely imputing to him, as fact, views about women in science that he does not hold. To do this they used the misquotes I will cite under section 2

6. The BBC breached impartiality guidelines by allowing its producers on social media to express bias in the case, not once, but repeatedly; and allowing them to still do so today.

7. The BBC must know that factual data and witness accounts now completely contradict the account given by Connie St. Louis and Deborah Blum but they have not sought comment from, or broadcast, any correction on the facts. This breaches BBC rules on bias. It is compounded by the original offence of letting the false reporting stand as fact on the BBC website.

 

THE TODAY SHOW SMEARS SIR TIM HUNT

1. BBC was Biased in Preparation of the Broadcast and Guest Selection

The ‘Today’ show on BBC Radio 4 is the single most popular radio programme in the UK and has an audience of millions. Its prime slot is the 8:20 am slot, reserved for the biggest news of the day. On June 9th, the Today show producer Tom Feilden read some character assassinations of Sir Tim Hunt posted on a blog by Sylvia McClain, from Professor David Colquhoun, of UCL and the Royal Society, and Professor Dorothy Bishop of Oxford University.

Bishop:

the criteria for FRS are excellence in science; there is no requirement that you be a decent human being… I would like to see them state publicly that they will bar him from serving on their committees…. someone with these views should not be involved in…Royal Society policy or…awards.

and Colquhoun:

I’m on the Royal Society Diversity committee, and Tim Hunt has caused consternation. I hope a fuller renunciation will appear tomorrow. Also, I hope, from UCL where Hunt has an honorary appointment

I have to say that I have never heard any man say anything of that sort, even when drunk. Neither do I recall any single sex labs (beyond what might be expected from stochastic variability). So I really hope that there are no longer many people with views like that.

Bishop and Hunt Colquhoun human J

 

After reading these extraordinary character assassinations and false characterizations of what Sir Tim Hunt said, the Today Show’s Tom Feilden sought comment from these persecutors of Sir Tim.

Acting fool J

Colquhoun and Bishop were, of course, basing this solely on Connie St. Louis’ now debunked tweet and two articles on Buzzfeed and the Daily Beast, both factually false and both since sheepishly corrected.

Feilden apparently did not seek comment from any defender of Sir Tim Hunt. If so, the preparation was biased. Certainly the BBC invited on to its show only two critics of Hunt; Connie St. Louis, who would repeat falsehoods throughout the broadcast, and Jennifer Rohn. This was biased.

The false smears of Sir Tim’s character received from David Colquhoun, who on June 9th called Hunt ‘the misogynistic Nobel prize winner’, would have coloured the Today show staff’s report.  Professor Colquhoun, of both UCL and the Royal Society, was evidently obsessed with Sir Tim. He started the hashtag #Huntgate. He was campaigning for disassociation by both UCL and the Royal Society based on a mere tweet. He appears to have informed the BBC of Sir Tim’s honorary Professorship at UCL.

bloggers all hours DC R4 hunt J

 

The BBC featuring this fact on their broadcast led directly to Professor Geraint Rees’s call to Sir Tim’s scientist wife threatening her that if Sir Tim did not resign he would be sacked. Thus, in collusion with Professor David Colquhoun, the biased preparation and false reporting on the Today show were major factors in UCL’s disastrous and sexist actions towards their employee Professor Collins, and through her to Sir Tim.

Aside from the vicious comments Colquhoun and Bishop, Feilden appears not to have searched Twitter for the words ‘Hunt’ or the hashtag #WCSJ2015 he would have found a witness contradicting Connie St. Louis from the very start:  Natalia Demina:

Demna he was joking june 9

 

These are the “sources” Feilden sought out. And that is bias. We know he prepared his broadcast having spoken to the anti-Hunt obsessive, David Colquhoun, who that day had called Hunt a “misogynist” for participating in the ice bucket challenge with his wife, because he says to Colquhoun ‘Sorry about the late call,’ and Colquhoun replies: ‘No problem! unpaid bloggers work all hours!’

2. BBC Misquotes Sir Tim Hunt  – Repeatedly, Across Media

During and subsequent to the Today Show, and across BBC stations and media, the BBC would repeatedly, and willfully, misquote Sir Tim Hunt. The effect of this misquoting was always the same; it was to make his specific joke and later remarks, about his own wife and marriage, into general remarks about women in science. This is the transcript of the Today Show’s 7:15 preview and 8:20 am main broadcast. Sir Tim Hunt’s remarks are quoted in two sections. Here they are. 7:15 preview:

Sir Tim Hunt: I did mean the part about having – having trouble with girls. I mean, it is true that peopleI have fallen in love with people in the lab, and that people in the lab have fallen in love with me, and it’s very disruptive to the science. Um, because it’s terribly important that in the lab, people are, sort of, on a level playing field. And I found that, um, you know, these emotional entanglements made life very difficult. I mean, I’m really, really sorry that I caused any offence – that’s awful. I certainly didn’t mean – I just meant to be honest, actually. 

OK? Now here are Sir Tim’s words as broadcast on the 8:20 section:

Sir Tim Hunt: This was a lunch for women journalists and particularly women scientists and engineers, actually. And I was asked, at short notice, to say a few words afterwards. And I thought it was ironic that I came after three women, who very nicely thanked the organisers for the lunch. And I said it was odd that they – they’d asked a man to make any comments. And I’m really sorry that I said what I said – it was a very stupid thing to do, in the presence of all those journalists. And what was intended as a sort of light-hearted, ironic comment apparently was interpreted deadly seriously by my audience. But what I said was quite accurately reported.

It’s terribly important that you, um, can criticise people’s ideas without criticising them. And if they burst into tears, it means that you tend to hold back from, you know, getting at the absolute truth – I mean, what – science is about nothing except getting at the truth. And anything that gets in the way of that diminishes, in my experience, the science. I mean, I’m really, really sorry that I caused any offence – that’s awful. I certainly didn’t mean – I just meant to be honest, actually.

So we see that the Today Show edited the words ‘I’m really really sorry I caused any offence…. just meant to be honest’ and uses them in two places. We can further see Dr. Hunt asserts two things: 1. He was joking and 2. He was joking ironicallyThe importance of the latter cannot be overstated. He was sending up himself and not women; he was being ironic. Here, in the audio clip of the end of his speech, we can hear Sir Tim use irony again after congratulating women scientists present:

Congratulations, everybody – and I hope, I hope, I hope, I really hope there is nothing holding you back – especially monsters like me

As you can hear, in his phrase ‘monsters like me,’ Sir Tim is being ironic. He is not saying he is a ‘monster’. He is not calling himself a ‘monster’ or ‘like a monster.’ His tone is quite clear; he is mocking the idea that he is a monster; he is negating it, not asserting it.

To ‘Today’ then, Sir Tim asserts that not only was he joking, he was mocking sexism not being sexist. That’s what ‘ironic’ means. His quotes also are very very careful not to refer to the female sex at all and to specify again and again that he is ‘being honest’ about his own life. He met his wife, the distinguished immunologist, Professor Mary Collins, when she was his lab student. Still married; still scientists.

BBC misquotes on the Today Show:

7:15 There are three problems with having women in the laboratory – according to the Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt

Sir Tim NEVER SAYS THIS. That would be a comment about women in science in general. He made NO remarks about women in science in general, even in jest, either in Seoul, or to the BBC. He spoke about HIS OWN TROUBLE when he fell in love with a junior colleague. Properly reported on, Sir Tim made a feminist point to the BBC. He said to them that he worried that his love affair in the lab might create a power imbalance. ‘Important that in the lab…there’s a level playing field.‘ With a less poisonous preparation by David Colquhoun, the BBC might have noticed that.

BBC misquotes again on the main show, 8:20

8:21 There are three problems with having women in the laboratory – according to the Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt

Sir Tim Hunt never said, and not even Connie St. Louis alleged he said, that there were problems with “having women in the laboratory.” This is a misquotation. This is biased, and a breach of the BBC’s impartiality rules.

he was, as I understand it, making the argument for single-sex laboratories

Sir Tim never told the BBC he argued for single-sex laboratories at any point. Nor did he say so in Seoul even in jest.

He said men would be the worse off for it (if the labs were segregated) – Tan Shiow Chin, Malaysian Science Editor

This was another misquotation. But the BBC did not stop with misquoting Sir Tim on the air. They misquoted him across media.

Scientist Tim Hunt responds to criticism of ‘girls in labs’ comments

A Nobel laureate has apologised for any offence after he made comments about the “trouble with girls” in science – but said he had “meant to be honest”.

Sir Tim made no remarks, joking or otherwise, about ‘girls in labs’ (a generalization). Nor did he make ‘comments about THE trouble with girls’, a general remark. He referred to himself alone. This is a misquotation and breaches BBC impartiality and accuracy rules.

In a truly extraordinary, truly libelous, misquotation, which appears to have been lifted from the Buzzfeed piece that had to retract its substance, the Radio 4 today programme lists its running order online as follows:

The Nobel Laureate Sir Tim Hunt has been criticised after telling an audience at a conference in South Korea that he was ‘a misogynist pig’.

I almost don’t have enough capital letters, boldface type, and neon glowing colours to pull out this evidence of the Today show’s bias and malicious intent. This is put as a quotation. AS A QUOTATION. It is reported AS FACT with NO QUALIFIER. Hunt “told” an audience that he was “a misogynist pig.”

Misogynist pig today show bbc J

There ought to be resignations at the BBC over that one. It is still live on the BBC Today Show website even today.

Here BBC Africa makes sure to misquote Sir Tim around the world and assert he said words that he did not say, and they do so to the President of Mauritius, herself a scientist

Sir Tim Hunt resigned after he said that women scientists should work in separate laboratories because they fall in love too easily with their male colleagues and often cry when criticised.

BBC Radio Newsday adds its bias directly to the President of Mauritius:

Can you comment on the comments made by British Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt – you’re laughing, so I guess you’ve already heard his words – said about women scientists – ‘you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you….’

Of course Sir Tim had made no remarks about ‘women scientists’ in general whatsoever.

BBC News further misquoted Sir Tim:

he made comments about the “trouble with girls” in science.

Sir Tim Hunt told a conference that women in labs “cry” when criticised and “fall in love” with male counterparts. He told the BBC he “did mean” the remarks but was “really sorry”.

This is a misquotation and inaccurate and fails both BBC impartiality and accuracy rules. Sir Tim never said any of that. Not even Connie St. Louis said any of that! In the above quote, the BBC here develops the theme of the Today show. They apply Sir Tim’s remarks about his own life to all women in science everywhere, all men in science everywhere.

Again on BBC News, where the BBC’s agenda of making Sir Tim’s very particular comment to Today about his own life and marriage a general one about women in science couldn’t be clearer: Headline – What’s It Like For Women in Science?

he made controversial comments about the trouble with girls in science

But the Today Show doesn’t want to give up its direct misquotes! Not to be outdone, it goes back to the scene of the crime two days later on June 12th and posts this as a direct quote:

the Nobel Science laureate who has resigned from his university post after making contentious comments about “girls in labs”.

And the BBC Science Hour on BBC World Service also wants to misquote Sir Tim! The BBC is going for a world record of bias and inaccuracy, and putting words in someone’s mouth!

Tim Hunt
A Nobel laureate has resigned from his position as honorary professor at a UK university after he made comments about the “trouble with girls” in science. University College London said Sir Tim Hunt – a Royal Society fellow – had resigned from his position within its faculty of life sciences. He told a conference that women in labs “cry” when criticised and “fall in love” with male counterparts.

But wait! Don’t think it’s just BBC radio that was misquoting, lying and smearing Sir Tim Hunt! Here’s Victoria Derbyshire’s bit on BBC 2 TV!  Again, there are direct quotation marks about something Sir Tim did not say 

Sir Tim Hunt, 72, told a conference in South Korea that “three things happen when [women] are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.”

At 5:51 on this clip Derbyshire, the presenter, says “He admits – he’s a chauvinist pig – his words.” WOW. Sir Tim never admitted to using the word ‘pig’ – even in jest. Not to the BBC; not in Seoul; not in Connie St. Louis’ quoted 37 words.

And let’s allow BBC Politics to get in on the misquote action! This is glorious! Sir Tim’s nonexistent words are getting the widest possible airing round our entire state-funded “impartial” broadcaster! I expect to see him pop up on C-Beebies (Children’s BBC) any minute!

London Mayor Boris Johnson has called for a Nobel laureate who had to resign after remarks he made about women in science to be reinstated.

Sir Tim Hunt, a Royal Society fellow, saidthe “trouble with girls” in labs is that they “cry” when criticised and “fall in love” with male counterparts.

BBC Politics develops the theme, again flatly lying by saying Sir Tim made remarks about women in science in general. None of these, you will note, include an “allegedly” or a “reportedly”

Sir Tim Hunt, a Royal Society fellow, said the “trouble with girls” in labs is that they “cry” when criticised and “fall in love” with male counterparts.

By now you have probably forgotten what Sir Tim actually did say. You might want to scroll up. The only time the poor bastard said “girls” was “having trouble with girls”. He went on to talk about his own marriage. In reference to his life he never said ‘women in the lab’. He said ‘people in the lab.’ In reference to emotions he again used the gender free ‘people’.

There is a load more of such misquotation and distortion – across BBC Radio and Television and Online – but in the interests of my readers retaining the will to live,  I will move on.

3. BBC BIAS, LIBEL AND INACCURACY IN CALLING SIR TIM HUNT SEXIST

The BBC breaches its Charter requirements of accuracy, impartiality and fairness again and again by, without ‘alleged’ or ‘reportedly’ or scare quotes, both calling Sir Tim Hunt a sexist and calling his anti-sexism joke against himself sexist:

Sexist scientist ‘a housewife’

The case of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sir Tim Hunt – forced to resign from University College London after saying the problem with women in the lab was that the “fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry” – remains in the news.

BBC Science:

The Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt was heavily criticised for his disparaging remarks about women in science last week,

Sir Tim made no “disparaging remarks” about “women in science”; he made no general remark about women in science at all.

The BBC World Service:

on Sir Tim Hunt’s sexist comments at a conference in South Korea. The British Nobel laureate said ‘ three things happen when women are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry’. 

For extra bonus Charter Breach, this show calls Sir Tim’s anti-sexism joke “sexist” as an assertion and misquotes him in quotation marks! (Clip title: “Is Science Sexist”?)

“Is The BBC A Biased And Inaccurate Pile Of Manure?’ would be a better title at this stage.

3. BBC BIAS IN REPORTING AS FACT THE ACCUSATIONS OF CONNIE ST. LOUIS

The BBC breached its charter repeatedly over and over by, in a biased way, asserting the accusations of Connie St. Louis – accusations we now know are total lies – as facts, without an ‘allegedly’ or a ‘reportedly.’

On the Today Show, it is not a problem that as their guest Ms. St. Louis lied through her teeth:

Sarah Montague: Connie St. Louis, when he said this – I mean, you heard him, you were there – what was the reaction in the room?

Connie St. Louis: Well, there was a deathly silence…nobody was laughing. …And so this – after he’d finished, there was this deathly, deathly silence.

Here’s the end of Sir Tim’s speech again; after the audio snippet finishes multiple witnesses report sustained applause following the laughter.

The BBC cannot help it if one of their guests lies and makes a false report as Ms. St. Louis did. What they MUST NOT do is take her account on trust, or report it as fact.

Sarah Montague: (7:15) ….That’s what he told a conference of senior women scientists and journalists in South Korea. And it didn’t go down terribly well.

Sarah Montague: (8:20) When it didn’t go down terribly well, he admitted that he was a “chauvinist pig”.

Taken as fact. Misquote. False reporting. Even CSL’s original tweet does not say that Sir Tim began with a joke and after a bad reaction said he was a chauvinist pig. There was NO evidence the joke about himself – not women ‘didn’t go down terribly well.’

The BBC repeated these lies on BBC TV again, the show giving Connie St. Louis’ false report the status of a fact:

A Nobel prize-winning scientist has sparked outrage by making chauvinist remarks at a conference of senior women scientists and journalists in South Korea.

Sir Tim Hunt told the conference that there are three problems with having women in the laboratory: “You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.”

Connie St Louis, a Lecturer in Science Journalism at City University who was at the conference, describes the reaction in the room.

Here BBC TV 1. shows bias by stating Sir Tim made chauvinist remarks without scare quotes, as a fact; misquotes him completely; and states that Connie St Louis “describes the reaction in the room.” Ms. St Louis is openly lying on this TV clip. She really emphasizes the lack of laughter and smiling.

very clearly, nobody was laughing – everybody was stony faced.

Tim Hunt Natala demina

But the BBC calls it “the reaction in the room.”

Here, Connie St. Louis gives us her account of the reaction in the room. How about that? Basic research, like a search of social media, would have given the BBC a live opposing view – but they did none.

Demna he was joking june 9

4. BBC BIAS EXPRESSED ON SOCIAL MEDIA

The BBC has a duty to fairness and impartiality. However, online its producers who identify themselves as with the bbc are acting with extraordinary bias; misquoting Sir Tim Hunt, RTing the ‘Distractingly Sexy’ hashtag, accusing journalists who research the bias of character flaws, etc etc etc.

The Today show producer, Tom Feilden, who appears to have researched the Sir Tim broadcast item in such a biased way on June 9th, gives us some insight into why the BBC won’t stop misquoting the Nobel Laureate even when its errors are pointed out in good faith. Feilden defames me in some of his tweets so I will not link to those ones. However, he does say

Except for the awkward fact he does use the exact phrase “women in the lab”

The phrase Sir Tim used on Today is “people in the lab.” He never, ever says “women in the lab”. Nor did he use that phrase in Seoul.

Feilden also insists Sir Tim used the word “the” before “trouble with girls” – i.e. – “the trouble with girls” which would make his joke about himself a general one about women in science. Sir Tim doesn’t do that at any point to the Today show, nor did he, at any point, say “the trouble with girls” in Seoul – he said “MY trouble with girls” (a joke about his wife whom he met in the lab).

It’s really important as this is the entire thrust of the BBC’s biased misreporting across all its platforms – that Sir Tim Hunt made generalized remarks about women scientists rather than about his own marriage to his lab student.

Feilden: He clearly says the exact words “women in the lab” on the very extract you already re-tweeted!

Only Sarah Montague, the Today Show presenter, ever says those words.

Feilden: Except for the awkward fact that he did say the exact words “women in the lab”

No. No, he really, really didn’t say them.

Pulling Mr. Feilden up on the Today Show’s misquoting, I pointed him to an article flagged up earlier in this piece, where the BBC records that Sir Tim said THE trouble with girls (i.e. in general) rather than what he actually said about himself (married Professor Collins his lab student): “HAVING…” and goes on to describe his own romance, only.

Mr Feilden then absolutely insists, again, putting it in quotation marks, that Sir Tim said “the trouble with girls”. He did not; neither to the BBC on the Today show nor to the conference in Seoul.

Feilden to Mensch the J

That section begins “I did mean the part about having trouble with girls” – emphasis mine – and immediately goes on to describe his love affair and his fears about power imbalances.

Feilden also says “He says he said it” in response to my challenge that Sir Tim had never said “the trouble with girls in science.”

This refers to Sir Tim’s comment ‘But my words were quite accurately reported.’ This has been taken by detractors of Sir Tim Hunt to mean that Sir Tim validated everything in the tweet by Connie St. Louis, and this is not the case at all. Sources say Feilden emailed Sir Tim the front page of the Times to comment on. He looked over only the 37 words, specifically:

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.”

That and only that was what Sir Tim Hunt meant when he said ‘my words were accurately reported.’ He glanced at the newspaper and referred to this comment only. So when Feilden says Hunt “says he said it” – “it” being “THE trouble with girls…” that is factually false. Hunt validated, only, MY trouble with girls. (Having joked about his marriage). And of course he goes on to congratulate and praise women scientists and is clearly being ironic.

As Sir Tim said on the very same day, June 10th, to the Guardian –

I certainly did not mean to demean women, but rather to be honest about my own shortcomings.

He could not be clearer that he was not, even in jest, talking about “women in science” or “girls in the lab” but making an ironic joke – one that sends up the sentiment – about his own marriage. The BBC had access to that information on June 10th. They ignored it completely and never reported it. That too is bias, and a breach of their charter.

Feilden also RTd the Distractingly Sexy hashtag; said “What Tim Hunt said about women in the lab was pretty appalling”; cc’ed in the arch Hunt-basher David Colquhoun into a tweet about the 12th June Today Hunt piece without Colquhoun asking: etc etc.

Then there is @ScienceNelson on Twitter, Sue Nelson. She describes herself in her Twitter bio as a ‘Radio 4 producer and presenter.’ She displays extraordinary and explicit bias against Sir Tim. She backs Connie St. Louis proven false account, calling Sir Tim’s remarks sexist without evidence. When a tape is produced demonstrating that St. Louis lied on the BBC (on her channel, Radio 4) “after he’d finished, there was this deathly, deathly silence. Nobody was laughing”

“Science Nelson” “Radio 4 Producer and Presenter” says it means nothing. When confronted with the specific claim of silence she simply doesn’t reply.

Sue Nelson silence J

4. BBC SHOWS BIAS BY NOT CORRECTING  FALSE REPORTS – AND NOT UPDATING STORY

The BBC covered the Tim Hunt allegations wrongfully and in a biased manner to exhaustion. They did not report, hardly at all, on the updated story. As witnesses emerged to debunk the accounts of St. Louis, the BBC did not report on them. As a tape emerged proving Connie St. Louis lied on the Today Show and BBC TV, the BBC did not report. The BBC covered things like Brian Cox and Richard Dawkins defending Hunt but omitted serious coverage of the women in science who testified to Hunt’s egalitarianism. David Kroll in Forbes ran a huge, graceful and massive retraction:

A personal note to the reader, July 23: In this story, I referred to an account by Connie St. Louis of comments by Sir Tim Hunt on June 8 at a World Conference of Science Journalism luncheon sponsored by the Korean Federation of Women in Science and Technology. 

Subsequent and more fully reported accounts have led me to re-evaluate my personal stance on Sir Tim Hunt as expressed in this article. While I personally might have chosen to offer different comments than he if asked to briefly address this group at a luncheon, I’m now reasonably certain that his words on women in science were self-deprecating, as based on the circumstances of his courtship and marriage to immunologist and University College London’s Gender Equity Champion, Professor Mary Collins; and that his overall message was to congratulate the Korean women scientists in attendance for their ability to perform at a level that becomes all the more impressive in the face of outdated attitudes about women in science as exemplified by his self-parody.

Certainly under the magnifying glass the last six weeks, no accounts of misogyny or sexist behavior have been uncovered against the Nobel laureate; to the contrary, he has been widely heralded by collaborators, former trainees, and students worldwide as most supportive in the career development of women scientists. His own 2001 Nobel lecture acknowledges the work of his women collaborators and students as emphatically as that of the men, going as far as identifying their specific experiments as turning points in understanding the dynamics of proteins that control the cell division cycle. The main section of this lecture closes as follows:

“One final comment. The decade starting in about 1986 was a fantastic experience for anyone working on the cell cycle. Discoveries emerged from all sides and unexpected quarters at a headily bewildering rate. The culture was generous and open, and the field attracted extremely talented scientists who were very much fun to work with and talk to. I would like to thank them. This Nobel prize honours them all.”

I count dear friends and colleagues among those who have expressed opinions on and accounts of this episode. Speaking for me and me alone, I wish to offer my sincere apologies to Sir Tim Hunt and Professor Mary Collins for unfairly characterizing him in this article as sexist and denouncing what now appears to be a selectively-edited account of his luncheon comments. The groundbreaking work of you and your colleagues has led to a recently-approved drug which my own mother will receive to treat her metastatic breast cancer. For this, I am grateful. In addition, I apologize to Dr. Debra Laefer for cluttering my representation of her award-winning research with my own counter-productive overshadowing of her own work and will publish an excerpt of this article to fully feature her project. I have also edited the title of this piece to reflect Sir Tim’s role at the conference in leading the session promoting the ERC-funded Advanced Project Grants to Dr. Laefer and Dr. Jennifer Gabrys.

That is the kind of thing we need from the BBC. They issued one disingenuous statement saying that ‘we did not misquote Sir Tim Hunt’s original comments’ when in terms they did misquote them. It said ‘we did not edit his words to change their meaning’. But they used ‘honest’ again and again to frame his words as referring to women in science – “women in the lab” . They misattributed, they misquoted, they made biased judgements, and they did not correct the record.

Note: originally I put “The BBC did not correct the record with anything like the prominence they gave the original story”. But having searched I find the BBC has not corrected the record AT ALL. The BBC has not even COVERED the appearance of the audio tape proving Connie St. Louis lied about laughter. NOT EVEN ONCE.

‘Stony-faced audience’

Connie St Louis, a lecturer in science journalism at City University, was in the 100-strong audience in South Korea.

“Nobody was laughing, everybody was stony-faced,” she told the BBC News Channel.

“The Korean female scientists who hosted us looked aghast and he just ploughed on for about five to seven minutes.

In this piece “Stony Faced Audience” is a section header. It has the normal lies and misattributions and it puts up Connie St. Louis’ infamous piece on BBC News Television where we can all hear her lie about no laughter.

Professor Mary Collins, the wife of Sir Tim Hunt expressed disappointment that the BBC had attributed as quotes words Sir Tim did not in fact say, and had wrongly used the word “sexist” without quotes. She also objected to  mischaracterisation of a particular ironic reference to Sir Tim’s own life as remarks about women scientists in general; and to the BBC’s presentation of accusations made by some journalists as facts.
You can join Professor Collins in those objections, in a concrete way, by using the complaint form at the top of this blog.

 

46 comments

  1. Great piece of work. Thank you for putting the time and effort to put the record straight. Have you thought about crowdfunding some cases in Tim’s defence? If It was Private eye doing it they’d be sued fast enough.

  2. discreetsecuritysolutions · July 27, 2015

    Excellent write-up of a most unfortunate situation.

  3. Dr Chris Westwood · July 28, 2015

    Louise, we may need some guidance. Unless you can state you listened to the broadcast, know when it was broadcast, and a load of other things, you cannot comment. I am going to write to my MP. As far as I am concerned if BBC are uder the microscope at the monent then this should also be done.

    • louisemensch · July 28, 2015

      Dr. Westwood, you can just complain about the website versions. Any one will do

  4. Dr Chris Westwood · July 28, 2015

    A point to note: not just the BBC, but also the Guardian has not retracted or ammended previos comments.

  5. dwestonfront · July 28, 2015

    Absolutely brilliant and dogged work Louise. Thank you for putting the time into this. It is good not only for rescuing Sir Tim’s reputation, but also lists important stones on serious matters of bias at the BBC and within UK academia.

    • dwestonfront · July 28, 2015

      *lifts, not lists!

    • Fred Wyropiquet · July 29, 2015

      Ironically the important biases at the BBC is its support for the Tory Party and for anti-science – neither of which is likely to be improved after this débâcle.

  6. professord · July 28, 2015

    Dear Loiuse – I guess you won’t be happy until you see the BBC abolished so that the competition (you know, the newspapers that hack murdered girl’s phones for profit and largely get away with it) provide the pure truth we all crave.

    • Dr Chris Westwood · July 28, 2015

      Do not blame Louise for this. The BBC know they are under the spotlight. Hence they were stupid to broadcast a pack of lies.

    • Ivana Fulli MD · July 28, 2015

      No matter how good you find your cause, you don’t sentence anyone for sexism until proven guilty after a fair hearing. Biased journalism is a sin indeed, the more so when one believed the BBC paid by British taxpayers money was supremely professional.
      Louise Mensch isn’t my favorite kind of girl since I don’t like politicians in general and she is also a formidable populist politician (Beware humor intended with the use of girl instead of cup of tea) but I am very admirative and grateful to her for a formidable investigative journalism work and energetic activism in order to fight against maccarthyism. (Absolute disregard for the strength of evidence and any fairness in trial for ideological reasons, you just replace communism by sexism as the sin deserving to forget about any fair heating.)

      • louisemensch · July 28, 2015

        Many thanks Dr. Fulli you have been tireless in your fight for justice here

    • louisemensch · July 28, 2015

      No; an apology and a retraction will do the trick.

      What do I look like over here, the Red Queen? David Colquhoun?

    • Fred Wyropiquet · July 29, 2015

      Another worry about all this is that it gives Louise Mensch and the right wing Press genuine grievance against the BBC and left wing supporters of women’s rights. It’s important for supporters of the BBC and women’s rights (from the Left) to join in with Louise’s condemnation and ensure that it is seen as a problem of a particular case and not a fault of the BBC or women’s rights in general.

      • louisemensch · July 29, 2015

        I agree with this. The BBC smeared Tim Hunt as I list, right across the BBC – website, radio, TV, you name it. All supporters of the BBC should complain so that it may deal with this manifest injustice. It isn’t about left or right. Sources say that Sir Tim is not a Conservative. Neither was Naz Shah. Spend months of life investigating injustice against Labour supporters!

        It’s about justice and injustice and that is all

    • ertdfg · August 4, 2015

      I’m confused.

      Is your argument that lying abut the facts of a story is good?
      Or is your argument that lying about the facts of a story is only good if some of your competition also does bad things?

      Have you considered the possibility that openly lying about the facts of a story (as BBC did) might be bad? Or is that just crazy talk?

      • Fred Wyropiquet · August 4, 2015

        This isn’t about left and right. Any decent left-winger will be disgusted about what happened to Tim Hunt just as any decent right-winger. If you want to argue about bias at the BBC (overwhelmingly in favour of the Tory Party and UKIP in recent years) then I’m happy to disabuse you of your false ideas – but this is not the right place and Louise might just be a touch unhappy with an ill-tempered distraction from the main issue.

  7. BadMemory · July 28, 2015

    It might also be educational*** and entertaining** (but not informative*) to go to the “Send us support, praise or appreciation” link and congratulate the Today Programme for award-winning audio editing and for well and truly stitching-up Sir Tim.

    ** Lessons in trope & rhetoric
    ** Humour
    * Lies

  8. Captain Nemo · July 28, 2015

    STOP PRESS: Connie St Louis’s NEW IMPROVED CV has finally been uploaded to the City University website. It looks like her almer mater was in fact Hatfield Polytechnic, but she’s no longer describing her degree as an “Upper Second”.

  9. Michael Pyshnov · July 28, 2015

    From the first time I read about Tim Hunt story, I had a feeling that I already had read about some similar story, where some event happened, and there were some witnesses, and then instantly crowds were mobilised around some political cause.

    Yesterday, I remembered what was this other story – it was burning of Reichstag.

    • Dr Chris Westwood · July 28, 2015

      Strange you saying that because I remember something similar. It escapes me. Thought it may have been the Mccarthy trials in USA. But cannot have been that because the FBI ensured all indicted had the chance to state their case. But Hunt was denied that. Then I thought of Judge Roland Freisler who sent the officers involved in the plot to kill Hitler to their execution. It wasn’t that either, because even in the show trial, and throughout their humiliation they were even allowed to say something. One condemed general even announced that he will soon be meeting a real judge. Still struggling to recollect mine. I suppose mine was before the Magna Carta when it was decreed that no person coud be condemned without the right of trial. Our memories are different, but the same concern..

      • Ivana Fulli MD · July 28, 2015

        I find maccarthyism appropriate : fighting an ideology (replace communism by sexism) with a complete disregard for the strength of available evidence and rules of fait hearing in the aim of depriving the culprit of his social influence and professional professional responsibilities.

        NB: Pr Sir Tim Hunt has lost a lot of power and a lot of material benefits.
        In addition to an honorary position which are hold for life in general unless somebody does something really shameful but from very powerful position at European Research Council (ERC) and Royal Society ‘s committee. I have no idea for the Royal society but the European Union tax payers, through the ERC offered Sir Tim Hunt a lot of power to do good (or bad) for science and for scientists which means it is a very gratifying position both fo those who want to make a difference in the world of scientific research and those who like power of doing good or bad. Those responsibilities also makes one enjoy indirect financial benefits through free lodging and food, good travel conditions at the expense of the tax payers or through invitations to universities who benefit from the wisdom of people in power to decide.(benefits one doesn’t declare to the taxman, I believe. )

        I do know personally how frantic French academics and researchers close to the time of retiring or retired fight frantically to get a place or even better to chair a committee.

      • Ivana Fulli MD · July 28, 2015

        Mea maxima culpa: Words disappeared in my comment (in addition to my many typos in my poor English). Please read:
        (…)In addition an honorary position which is hold for life in general unless somebody does something really shameful but an honorary professorship neither provide any direct or indirect financial advantages nor add to a Nobel prize laureate CV, he has lost a lot by being forced to resign from from very powerful position at European Research Council (ERC) and Royal Society ‘s committee.(…)

      • Dr Chris Westwood · July 29, 2015

        Ivana, I am not replying to myself, but to you. For some reason there is no way of replying directly to you. I understand your preference for the term Mccarthyism, because this is a term commonly used. My problem is this:
        Mccarthy did hound academics because of their views.
        But the FBI investigated every case, reviewed the evidence, and in most instances found no incriminating evidence against the accused.
        That was Mccarthyism as we remember it. Not very nice I agree.
        In fact, Tim Hunt would have received better treatment under Mccarthyism. To accuse the Brittish academics who judged Hunt ( without reviewing the evidence) of Mccarthyism is an insult even to Mccarthy and the FBI. They do not deserve to be associated with the Hunt inquisition.
        Either way, we all appreciate your contribution.
        Best wishes.
        Chris

  10. Dr Chris Westwood · July 28, 2015

    Connie St Louis has posted her new CV at City. No mention of the Guardian column. Just a few lines. Very modest, but she has so much to be modest about. I suspect her knuckles are sore, and she will be under continous appraisal for a while. We will never know. That is the difference between the professionalism at City and the amateur stupidity at UCL.

    • Ivana Fulli MD · July 28, 2015

      I reckon UCL was political correctness gone mad doing public image damage control in a ruthless way but not amateur stupidity: Leave your victim the time to speak to some powerful friends and he might ask publicly for a hearing in fair conditions.

      Anything less than a disciplinary hearing and assessment of fitness to teach for serial liar Connie Saint Louis can’t restore any faith in this little known university who doesn’t take care of verifying its lecturers CV and seem to want to bury quietly the fact that one of their lecturers is a serial unrepentant liar who with a very bad command of English for a lecturer in journalism.

      (Just to sign a temporary contract of senior fellow researcher for one year at the Max Plank Institute (Germany), a young man I know, PhD candidate, had recently had to present not copies but originals of all his diplomas even his end of high school exam diploma (baccalauréat) which have been examined seriously in order to prevent any fraud on CV

    • Fred Wyropiquet · July 29, 2015

      I do wish I had gone to the Mind and the Brian Symposium in Berlin that her new CV mentions. 🙂

      • Dr Chris Westwood · July 29, 2015

        As the pressure eases we can all find time to laugh now.

  11. J .Blyth · July 28, 2015

    McAlpine and sir Tim Hunt both traduced by the BBC. They should be ashamed of such sloppy reporting.

  12. Ivana Fulli MD · July 28, 2015

    Please note a real case of damaging sexism from Pr David Colquhoun who doesn’t reckon single sex men research units are expected only for mathematicians working in stochastic variability : “beyond what can be expected from stochastic variability”
    How discouraging for girl interested in stochastic variability which opens also very lucrative careers in the finance & banking sectors in addition to research is that ?

    It is also completely wrong because Pr Nadine El Karaoui has done research and taught it for decade to highly selected students coming to France to benefit from her teaching:
    http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/august/fields-medal-mirzakhani-081214.html

    Such a sexism after a woman had won a Fields medal for the first time!
    http://finance.math.upmc.fr/index2.php maryam Mirzakhani

  13. Ivana Fulli MD · July 28, 2015

    Please note a real case of damaging sexism from Pr David Colquhoun who doesn’t reckon single sex men research units are expected only for mathematicians working in stochastic variability : “beyond what can be expected from stochastic variability”
    How discouraging for girl interested in stochastic variability which opens also very lucrative careers in the finance & banking sectors in addition to research is that ?

    It is also completely wrong because Pr Nadine El Karaoui has done research and taught it for decade to highly selected students coming to France to benefit from her teaching: http://finance.math.upmc.fr/index2.php

    Such a sexism after a woman, Maryam Mirzakhani, had won a Fields medal for the first time:
    Maryam Mirzakhani

  14. Michael Pyshnov · July 28, 2015

    I want to share some interesting information with interested people. I once found a book written in the 1930’s by the then Chief Justice of England tearing apart what was at that time apparently a new thing – Administrative Law. The author says that this new Law is actually abolishing the Law. I didn’t buy the book, it was $15. A thin large book with hard cover.

  15. Dr Chris Westwood · July 28, 2015

    Fantastic contribution just been posted by Athene Donald on her blog. She mentions no names when discussing disappointment with academic colleagues, but Bishop and Colquohoun are clearly intended. My disappointment is more with Frith, who joined in early with the condemnation of Hunt, but remained silent as more information became available. I am sure she will be happy at UCL.

    • Dr Chris Westwood · July 29, 2015

      Should have said: i am sure she will be happy at UCL with like minded people.

  16. Dr Chris Westwood · July 29, 2015

    Ivana has raised a good point about Hunt’s position with the ERC. Is there any chance he could return. They were never happy about sacking him, but felt they had to because of UCL and the RS. Since these two bodies are now discredited could this be possible.

    As an aside, I see that the RS is 70% financed from the public purse. Considering the poor leadership and total lack of judgement that should be questioned until they get their house in order. RS has become like the BBC.

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  18. St. John-Smythe · August 1, 2015

    This is another bit of reporting by the BBC, before it was discovered that he was in fact a “sexist pig”.

    Actually it is a very good documentary and I enjoyed watching it.

    I see what has happened since then as mass insanity. These journalists of the lower end of the species are all brainwashed. You can’t reason with a brainwashed or mental person, and I have tried often enough myself.

    Actually there is a way to deal with brainwashing, and it is not entirely obvious either, but like Tim Hunt, I’m a man who does experiments, and my experimental observations are that the way to deal with it is via serious shock, as in make the brainwashed almost jump out of their skin. That is what is required to dislodge a brainwashed mind, and indeed it is a very effective technique. If you don’t, and if you are calm and polite towards them then anything that you say will simply be rejected by their brainwashing. It’s as simple as that. You have to scare the daylights out of them. It only needs to be done the once. Indeed a very good analogy is someone who is hypnotised. A large shock will bring them back into a normal state of mind. The way the brainwashing is upheld is via reinforcement, since all the BBC brainwashed and indeed all the rest of the brainwashed press reinforce each other’s views, so you get nowhere.

    So if you want to make any progress at all with these people, you’ll have to talk to them in person. Of course they don’t allow that because they wish to keep the status quo, but there are ways you can talk to them if you are clever enough. Doors are often left unlocked in buildings, even though the rule is that you need appointments. If you are near to UCL you might even catch Michael Arthur on his lunch break. He’ll ignore your letters, but he would not be able to ignore you if your were standing right next to him. Be your own 007, and you’ll find him in no time!

    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    Support Tim Hunt – Support Real Science – Boycott UCL & City University

    • Dr Chris Westwood · August 5, 2015

      City University are being unfairly treated here. If Tim Hunt had been at City rather than UCL I am confident that they would have made a statement disassociating themselves from the comments reported, but qualifying their statement with a comment that they would discuss this with Tim Hunt upon his return. I very much doubt if they would have made the idiotic knee jerk reaction UCL did. Regarding CSL, we cannot comment because any disciplinary meeting was held in private, and will stay that way. So we will never know what restrictions have been placed upon her, and what level of continued appraisal has been activated. This reflects a high degree of professionalism. Now compare that with UCL, and Colquohoun, Frith and Bishop over at RS. I am nothing to do with City, but know that university is popular with commerce and industry. As such they would need to demonstrate a higher level of professionalism than UCL. Now, let’s stop being serious, because UCL claims to have a top business school and expects to train the next generation of business leaders, and provide consultancy services. And you just couldn’t make this up, could you.

  19. rob22 · August 2, 2015

    The Jun 15th Athene Donald blog post (What Next after Tim Hunt) is worth a revisit in the light of what has since occurred. The comment string is instructive for those interested in group behaviour.

    The sour undercurrent of disapproval by more than a few towards Dame Athene (for having the temerity to merely seek to be fair) took me aback (let alone some of the comments about Sir Tim), but I think that the circle of mutual congratulation and confirmation that occurs all too often when people get into a group to “monster” another has such a strong attractive pull for the people in it, that they are unaware of how they themselves appear.

    Things are said that reveal more perhaps about the speaker than they do about the person who is the object of their derision.

    The comment thread is, as I said, interesting.

    I was struck by the almost palpable desire by some to see Sir Tim publicly humiliated. I kept having this image of him being ceremoniously drummed out of various institutions, his bunsen burners ground underfoot by the UCL Provost, his doctoral robes ripped from his aged shoulders.

    Shades of Dreyfus!

    Dame Athene and the “Huntards”, perhaps! And Louise Mensch as Zola…

    What an entertaining thought…

  20. rongalt · August 3, 2015

    Thanks Louise. I submitted a complaint to the BBC.

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  22. francischalk · August 4, 2015

    This whole affair is easily explainable: all Leftists lie all the time. The BBC is full of Leftists; ergo, they lied about Sir Tim Hunt.

    • Chris Westwood · August 5, 2015

      How about the leftists supporting Tim Hunt. Do they lie?

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