Editor who published false claim was Katherine Deves campaign manager

The ABC have revealed that the editor of Tasmania’s The Examiner newspaper who earlier this week published a false claim about transgender women was previously the campaign manager and media advisor for failed Liberal candidate Katherine Deves.

Mark Westfield took up the post just a few months ago, returning to the local newspaper where he first began his career decades ago.

A woman wrote-in to the newspaper claiming that she had been in the change room, which was also being used by many young girls, when a man walked in and began undressing in front of the youths. The woman claimed another man, the father of one of the young girls, had subsequently come into the change rooms and forcibly removed the man from the space.

Published under the heading “Girls getting changed, then in walks a man”, the author of the letter said she had approached the Aquatic Centre’s staff, but they had shrugged off her concerns, saying they could nothing because the man in question identifies as a female. She then shared her view that the centre needed to install separate facilities for people who “identify” as being different gender to the sex they were assigned at birth.

The City of Launceston responded to the letter saying the claim had “no basis in fact” and that “no such incident has occurred at the facility”. The City of Launceston said it was regrettable that the newspaper had made no attempt to verify if the claim was true before publishing the letter.

The newspaper has subsequently deleted the letter off its website and issued a retraction. The Examiner said they publish letters to the editor “in good faith” but they had been misled on this occasion.

Launceston’s Mayor, Danny Gibson, said the publishing of the letter had led to the council’s staffing receiving a lot of abuse.

“The publishing of this letter has, as you could expect, resulted in considerable angst and grief for council staff, particularly those at the front desk, at the aquatic centre, and indeed those on the ends of the telephone, who continue to be the subject of ongoing abuse.

“I know I have, and I’m sure other councillors have also received additional information and letters concerning this, the tone of which is less than desirable.” Mayor Gibson said.

While the newspaper has deleted the letter from its website it has been shared on social media thousands of times.

Westfield said the selection of which letters to the editor are published was his sole responsibility and he had not had time to check the claims. His decision to remove the letter from the newspaper’s website came after he spoke to the author.

“I spoke to the writer. I think she made it up. She wasn’t very convincing. I asked her what happened, to give me some detail, a time, date, but she wouldn’t.”

The author reportedly said the incident did not happen to her but had been relayed to her by a friend who it did occur to.

Equality Tasmania spokesperson Rose Boccalatte said Tasmania had the most advanced anti-discrimination protections in Australia and it was concerning that there was such a concerted push to undermine them.

“If any kind of pushback to these laws is successful in Tasmania, it demonstrates that it can happen anywhere. That’s why it’s really important for us to be vigilant.” Boccalatte said.

OIP Staff

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