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Press Ombudsman dismisses complaint from Jim Corr over Irish Daily Mirror's 'online quack' comment

Jim Corr said that contrary to what was published in the newspaper column, he was not an ‘online quack’.

Jim Corr
Jim Corr
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE OFFICE OF the Press Ombudsman has found that a characterisation of musician Jim Corr as an ‘online quack’ has not breached the Press Council’s Code of Practice’s principle for ‘truth and accuracy’.

In a decision published today, the Press Ombudsman has not upheld Corr’s complaint to the Ombudsman over an opinion column published in the Irish Daily Mirror on 11 December.

The column, which focused on vaccine scepticism, contained two references to Corr, who is known for his role in music group The Corrs.

In one reference, the columnist commented that “unfortunately a lot of ordinary people are taking medical advice from online quacks like Jim Corr … rather than scientific facts from doctors and scientists”.

The second reference was: “Hardly a day goes by when Jim doesn’t tweet something less than complimentary about vaccines to his 43,300 followers on Twitter although, as far as I know, he has no medical qualifications.”

The article was accompanied by an image of Corr playing a guitar.

In response, Corr submitted a complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman contending that the article breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) as contrary to what was published in the article, he was not an “online quack”.

He also stated that it was inaccurate to state that he “did not back his opinions with scientific facts from doctors and scientists”.

He said he “most often backs all comments with robust medical and scientific evidence”.

Corr also claimed that Principle 8 – Prejudice -had been breached as the article “incited hatred against (him) as someone to be despised for his views” and incited the readers against him with ‘retaliatory action’ as he was a “danger to society”.

In its ruling, the Press Ombudsman has dismissed all of Corr’s complaints.

The report states that the reference to ‘online quack’ in the column “is certainly provocative language”.

However, the report goes on to state that “but given Mr Corr’s activity on social media on vaccination and given that in his submission Mr Corr does not deny his opposition to vaccination I believe this remark is not a breach of the Principle 1 (concerning truth and accuracy)”.

The Ombudsman pointed out that Corr in his complaint stated that he most often backed up his comments with “robust medical and scientific evidence”.

The report states: “It is certainly the case that there are a number of medically and scientifically qualified people who have expressed their concerns about vaccination, but given that there is an overwhelming consensus in both the medical and scientific community in favour of the benefits of vaccination the description used in the article whilst provocative and upsetting for Mr Corr falls within the bounds of what is required if Principle 1 is not to be breached.”

The Ombudsman also found given Corr’s record of use of social media to argue against vaccination it is not possible to sustain an argument that what was said in the article about him was based on malicious misrepresentation or unfounded accusations.

The Irish Daily Mirror in a submission to the Office of the Press Ombudsman stood over what it had published and said that the background was that Corr had posted/tweeted a quantity of material relating to the coronavirus.

On the reference to ‘online quacks’, the report states that the newspaper referred to some comments posted by Corr, such as one that read “… our children are being utterly poisoned by vaccines”.

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In addition the newspaper noted that Corr had retweeted on many occasions tweets which were hostile to vaccinating people. The Mirror went on to say its columnist was “entitled to voice his opinion that Mr Corr’s tweets and social media posts had the propensity to encourage people not to take the vaccine”.

The complaint could not be resolved by conciliation and it went before the Press Ombudsman for a decision.

Earlier this year, in a separate action, Corr announced that he was taking legal action against Twitter for suspending his account.

The step by the social media giant was taken for an alleged violation of the company’s policy on “Covid-19 misleading information.”

However, Corr claimed the move was an unlawful breach of freedom of speech.

Corr said at the time: “I am challenging Twitter over the suspension of my account with almost 50,000 followers.”

The firm suspended his account last December for the alleged violation of its rules.

Corr denies breaching any regulations and contends that the step has damaged his reputation.

About the author:

Gordon Deegan

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