08 - JUN 11 - Churches' Media Council
Churches' Media Council - Clarence Mitchell et Janet Kennedy
Transcrit par Remmee
Clarence Mitchell was a BBC reporter and royal correspondent. He went on to become director of the media monitoring unit at the government's Central Office of Information, before being hired by the parents of Madeleine McCann, Gerry and Kate, to be their spokesperson.
Andrew Graystone talks to Janet Kennedy (épouse du frère de la mère de Kate) and Clarence Mitchell about The McCanns and the Media.
AG : I want to issue a very, very warm welcome this morning, to two guests -- to Clarence Mitchell and Janet Kennedy. Clarence -- lots of you will know -- those of you who watch the BBC over the past years will know -- Clarence started his work, I think, as a reporter in Leeds, not so far from here...CM : …newspapers first, then BBC and Radio Sheffield - and then Leeds.
AG : …Sheffield and then Leeds -- and then moved to London to work on Breakfast television and general reporting including some really significant cases -- Fred and Rose West…
CM : …Millie Dowler -- I was also one of the deputy royal correspondents that did Diana’s death.
AG : And then Clarence you moved from there to work in the government Media Monitoring Unit. Is that correct?
CM : Yes, I -- I joined the Cabinet Office in 2005 and I became Director of The Media Monitoring Unit which is a very small team based within the Cabinet Office - as it was then. It’s now part of COI. And it exists to brief ministers on the day’s media agenda and, you know, how -- how the various story strands of the day are moving through the media and then the special advisors at Number 10 decide - on that - how they deal with it and which ministers are put out to speak.
AG : And then as we know, in September last year Clarence moved from that work to being spokesman for the McCann family. Which brings us to Janet Kennedy -- and really delighted that you’re with us this morning. Thank you so much for coming. Janet, you’re Kate McCann’s aunt - is that right?
JK : Yes, my husband Brian is Kate’s mother’s brother -- is that right? [Laughs]
AG : That’s right. And you live in Rothley?
JK : And we live -- we’ve lived in Rothley for 25 -- 26 years now -- and Kate and Gerry came to live there, I suppose, about 2 years ago -- they’d lived in another village called Queniborough which isn’t too far away -- when Gerry got his job at Glenfield as a cardiologist. So we’ve really been in the thick of it, I suppose you could say, living -- living in Rothley. And it’s been hard - very hard.
AG : What we’d like to do together over the 45 minutes or so that we have, is to look back over what’s happened in the last 13 months. But our theme for the last two days has been questions of values in the new media environment. And so I’m interested to explore with you, what you and the family have done with the media and what the media have done with you - and what your reflections on that are. We come to this as - many of us - professional communicators and we have everything to learn about the impact that the media is making. The first thing I’d want to ask you though - just to begin with is - could you tell us how Kate and Gerry are?
JK : Erm -- Well -- Each day is different I think. They’re sort of buffeted by -- partly you know, what the media has to say, although I think it is quite quiet at the moment and I think those people who’ve seen the documentary, know that erm --
I think they’ve just gathered all their strength together to devote themselves to the twins and to actually be very focussed on the search for Madeleine and anything that will bring about a resolution. And they’re both highly intelligent, articulate, strong people with great love for their children and I think they’re able to channel that, you know, into what they have to do each day. It doesn’t make it easy but I think they’ve got the psychological wherewithal, you know, to give themselves up and just cope with each day as it comes. That’s how I would express it.
AG : Can I take you back to the time when Madeleine disappeared? We know that many children disappear in all sorts of circumstances and it’s of relevance to us, I think, how that particular event became the media story that it did. I mean, my understanding is that, it was somebody in the UK who first approached the media on behalf of the family. Have I got that right?
CM : The -- the story, if you like, began rolling back here, across news desks, in the early hours of the night of the 3rd into the 4th when a number of relatives and friends began sending in pictures of Madeleine - primarily to BBC’s National News Desk. At one point there was so many pictures of her coming in the BBC actually queried this and said, ‘Well who is this girl? We don’t know.’ And a lot of -- a lot of checking, quite rightly, went on in the early hours. This was entirely nothing to do with Gerry and Kate or any of their friends who were actively searching and helping the police to look for Madeleine.
And that’s why the allegation that’s made often and has been repeated so frequently seems like a fact - that somehow Kate and Gerry were manipulating the media from the outset - it’s just totally untrue. In the modern 24/7 online connected era, I would defy any family with friends or relatives, who have images of a missing child, not to get online and use that capacity - and that’s exactly what happened.
AG : We’ve been talking in the last couple of days about just the way that happened. When stories of the -- if you’d like to call them stories -- I mean it’s not a story at one level is it...
CM : No.
AG : …in your life? But when stories begin to happen – now - we’re all reporters, you know. Every – every [one] in the street has a video phone and is sending material out.
CM : Well that has fantastic advantages; the power of the good the net can achieve is wonderful - equally it has its downsides which I’m sure we’ll discuss.
AG : So this story as it were -- the media story -- began to roll without any initiative, at first, from Kate and Gerry and their friends in Portugal. Is that – is that how you recall it?
JK : That’s how I recall it. I mean we had a phone call from Gerry in the early hours of the morning after, you know, the whole thing was discovered - and I would have said that they would have been just too distraught to have had any thought at all about, you know, ‘how we’re going to approach the media?’ -- It would’ve been the last…
CM : Yeah…
JK : …last thing in their minds…
CM : [interjects] But, in fact, two of the detectives on the night -- when they were leaving that night, Gerry said, “Well what about the media?” And they said, “No. No media. No media. We don’t do that.” [Laughs] So, you know, it was just a completely different mindset from the start.
They [K&G] had enough -- more than enough on their plate. They were out searching. They were helping the police. And when they came back from one of their first visits to the police station Gerry was amazed to see the number of journalists that were already outside the apartment. None of that had come from calls from their [beck]. It had come because the wire services were reporting it. Material was coming in from friends and relatives and ‘the machine,’- if you like - had latched unto this as a major story from the -- from the word go.
AG : Now Janet, you must’ve been closely involved with them, at that stage, although you were in England at the time. Was there a point where Kate and Gerry decided that they needed to be proactive with the media - to positively engage with the media?
JK : I -- I’m not really sure myself about that, you know -- at the time -- It’s not something I’ve discussed with them. My own feeling of the first few days was, you know, just try to get in touch with the Foreign Office, you know, to try and get some kind of help in terms of it being a foreign country.
I mean I know that the morning after it happened I -- Kate, you know, had phoned me because -- this sounds terribly trivial -- but they were due home the next day and she’d booked an online shop. I won’t give the name of the -- of the company -- of the supermarket -- and, you know, she sort of wanted something to be done about it. So I just went up to the house, you know, and erm -- to sort that out. And, you know, I just wasn’t prepared for the media interest at the house itself.
AG : What -- What happened?
JK : Well, there were just over a hundred people with cameras and reporters -- And they’ve got a sort of gate and then a little driveway and I mean I was -- I suppose I was really daunted, you know, by this sort of complete media intrusion, as I thought, at the time.
AG : What does it feel like?
JK : Well, if I tell you that I sort of knelt on the playroom floor so that I wouldn’t be seen because there was -- I was aware there were long range cameras focussing on the house and there were just flashing lights, flashing cameras, people continually coming up and knocking on the door and I just wouldn’t answer the door. You know, I felt totally imprisoned really and very threatened and, you know, I would think I am quite a mature person who can deal with all kinds of crises. But it was quite overwhelming I have to say -- just this complete takeover of my life, you know, at that time -- and poor Kate and Gerry there, you know, with no Madeleine.
Eventually the police called and they sort of said, you know, that they would liaise with the press. But I think, at that point, I didn’t really just want it to be the police. I felt that we should also have a say in it, you know, sort of over the course of that first day; I thought well perhaps we ought to represent our own point of view and not just have the police, as it were, issuing standard replies, you know, which I assumed perhaps they would do. I don’t think I was very sensible about it at all, you know [Laughs].
AG : …I can’t imagine I’d have been very sensible either…
CM : [interjects] Brian and Janet had to basically run their own media operation from scratch -- out of the blue -- particularly given the fact that Kate, Gerry and the rest of the group were in Portugal. It was -- there was a natural focus of interest at this end but in Portugal we had 40 crews -- TV crews alone on the ground -- up to 300 reporters, if you include all the prints and online and radio as well.
AG : And who was -- Was anybody managing that?
CM : Initially -- Initially -- and this is how I came to be involved -- Initially, Mark Warner, the holiday company concerned, brought in one of their PR people - Alex Woolfall, who’s the crisis manager expert from Bell Pottinger - who works with the company anyway. He came out and the embassy sent a press officer down from Lisbon. As British nationals, in trouble abroad, Kate and Gerry were offered full consular assistance. In this exceptional level of media interest it meant that there had to be an unusual aspect of media handling because there were so many on the ground; they wouldn’t normally send a press officer down but in this case they did. And it became clear, very quickly, that the numbers were so great that extra help was needed from London. And the FCO, through the embassy, was then asked for another press officer to go out and they initially sent out Sheree Dodd - who had to move house that week - and she came back. And because of my active media connections -- and I was working within government at the point -- at that point -- I was asked to basically go out to replace her. So I…
AG : So you were doing that on behalf of the Foreign Office?
CM : …I went out initially for a month - I was told, ‘Oh, this’ll all be over in a fortnight’ and I went out for a month and -- and that was -- that was why I got involved. Now, again, it’s often been said, ‘Oh, why are the McCann’s so special? Why do they need a spokesman?’ I exist because of the media interest. That is the only reason why I did this initially, and it continued the way through the year, as we’ve seen and -- and that’s why I’m still doing it today because the media continue to be interested. It’s not because Kate and Gerry are in any way special, or their case is any more deserving than any other missing child.
AG : So you started Clarence as a representative of the Foreign Office. But Kate and Gerry did actually employ their own media spokesperson at the -- at an early stage didn’t they - Justine McGuiness?
CM : After me -- when the British government element ended and I organised the trip around Europe that we did and we went to visit the Pope - again, largely at the Vatican’s […] behest, although we had to formally apply for that audience. After we had organised that - via the embassies - the government felt it was right that the public aspect of this should come to a close because it had been -- they had been assisted for so long at taxpayer’s expense.
And also, by that stage, a lot of money had come in from the very generous donations from the public. And Gerry, Kate and the wider family felt it was appropriate to bring a campaign manager on board to look at more long term strategic campaign ideas. In my role it’s just fire fighting -- hour – for -- hour by hour -- the media handling-- and so she [Justine McGuiness] came on for that and then I came on to take over from her later.
AG : And Janet, were you involved in discussions with the family about starting a campaign as it were?
JK : No, I wasn’t personally, my husband Brian was, there was a erm -- The fund was started at the Walker Stadium in Leicester -the football club. And my husband Brian was one of the people appointed to the board. Not so much as a family member but a sort of safe pair of hands because he was a retired headmaster and it was thought perhaps somebody like that, you know, would be quite measured -- erm I’m not sure that that’s true. [Laughs]
AG : I don’t know why that got a laugh. [Audience laughs]
JK : But, you know, he was -- There were about -- It was actually set up by Glenfield Hospital by colleagues of Gerry’s who, you know, were utterly helpless and wanted to do something to forward the search for Madeleine. And also there was the whole fact that they were stuck out in Portugal and, you know, weren’t able to come back home.
So certain colleagues all contributed a certain amount of money and obviously once people start donating, you know -- I think it was a thousand pounds each -- some of these people, you know, that, you know -- And also the donations were pouring in and I was going to the house and opening mail and cheques were coming in and people writing supportive letters.
And the whole thing, you know, was just sort of overwhelming and I think it was felt that to --to sort of be accountable and for the money to be channelled in a sort of rational way it was important to set up a trust fund - a Madeleine fund. It couldn’t be a charity because it was for one missing child and of course charities status has got to be, you know, that it’s for a group ,to be say, missing children --
CM : The public good
JK : For the public good -- And this [fund] was just generated because Madeleine’s disappearance generated so much public concern and interest.
AG : In those first days and even weeks, the media attention - although it was absolutely intense - was substantially very supportive, as I recall?
JK : It was. It was. Without a doubt. It was -- it was tremendously supportive. There were one or two people who approached me, who sort of suggested that it would be a really good story if perhaps, you know, they could have access to the house and see Madeleine’s room and what was inside it.
AG : But tell me what actually happens when somebody approaches you like that?
JK : Well…
AG : …I’ve done some dodgy things as a broadcaster but I’m not sure that I’ve done…
JK : Well I mean I had…
AG : … what happens?
JK : …I had made a decision from the word go that the inside of the house was totally off limits because I was just so scared of this whole thing becoming sentimentally slushy and pandering to -- to the worst kind of intrusion.
AG : But did – did somebody ring you at home and say, ‘I’m from The Sun, can I come round your house?’ How does it work?
JK : Yes --Yes they did or…
CM : Letters are put through letterboxes or offers…
JK : And people knock at the door and if I was in the house, you know, people would come to the house and, you know -- and they asked about going inside. And I just said that I thought it was totally inappropriate and that I -- I was absolutely aghast that anybody could even think of -- of doing that, you know.
CM : And that was absolutely the proper response from the family’s point of view. But of course that doesn’t play the media game. There is a stereotypical, kneejerk, news desk reaction - certainly in the tabloid side of things is, ‘We’ve gotta see the grieving. We’ve gotta see the tears. We’ve gotta see the emotion.’ And in -- Sadly in many cases some families go along with that and because McCann’s very firmly said, ‘No this is a private thing and we’ll not -- And that’s a line we will not cross.’ I’m still getting requests to this day and the amount of money they’ve been offering -- I mean, is just ridiculous. They -- they want pictures of Kate in her bedroom crying. It’s just gratuitous, emotive, sentimental rubbish….
AG : …But Clarence you’ve been on both sides of this.
CM : Yes
AG : You’ve been a reporter.
CM : But even as a reporter I would’ve felt uncomfortable
AG : … are you saying that you haven’t done that sort of stuff?
CM : Even as a reporter I would’ve felt uncomfortable asking for that sort of thing.
AG : So were you shocked at what your own trade was doing?
CM : I -- I -- I wasn’t shocked by that sort of thing - that unfortunately is all entirely predictable and it’ll continue for as long as this sort of tragic situation continues. What I was shocked about was the -- the lack of standard of reporting that took place in Portugal -- in that the reporters on the ground did absolutely no investigative work whatsoever. When the police said, ‘Sorry we’re not talking.’ That was it - they accepted that and they just sat in the bar which was offering free white wine -- alcohol. That became the newsroom and every day they would then just translate the Portuguese papers which began to be full of smears - lies in many cases - downright inaccuracies -- they would just lift that.
They’d phone me -- I’d say, ‘this is wrong -- its rubbish -- that’s not true.’ That was it -- ‘Mitchell balances it’ -- piece runs -- ‘thank you.’ It runs the next day in Britain. And then the next day the Portuguese press would run it again - saying the respected British press had confirmed our story - they hadn’t. It was just utter nonsense. The whole thing was just a ridiculous spin cycle… of insanity.
AG : Janet, can you remember when the first negative or questioning stories started to emerge?
JK : Yes, I suppose -- I went out to Portugal a couple of times, before Kate and Gerry came home, just to help look after the children and it was -- it was that end of July, early August, when I think things began to change. I would pinpoint it as that.
Well for one thing they -- they’d moved, you know, out of the Warner apartment, to a small villa which the Portuguese press said, you know, was the height of luxury. You know all these sort of inaccurate descriptions.
And the police attitude changed at that time, as well. And the Scenic car was seized and […] at the villa -- the police, who had been very cooperative, you know -- Kate and Gerry had worked with them - they thought really well. And Kate and Gerry tried to be proactive in the investigation and to give as much assistance as possible. And in those few days, August 8th - August 9th, I know that they -- they just suddenly descended without warning and took absolutely every stitch of clothing from the house.
And it was as though it was orchestrated really because the press - at that time - also were, you know, really beginning to be very, very negative and anti the McCann’s and there was suspicion that, you know, that they’d had something to do with Madeleine’s abduction stroke death. And there was a complete sea change that week. And my own impression of being there was that it was also -- almost as though it was a conspiracy - perhaps that’s an over emotional reaction to something. But Kate and Gerry were really at the end of their tether in that week because their search for Madeleine, you know, was totally obstructed.
AG : What happens to you as a person, or you as a family, when you --- you open that newspaper and it’s saying really deeply negative or shocking things about you?
JK : Well I think you sort of -- you’re being destroyed from within if you’re not strong enough to hold on to your own sense of who you are and the fact, you know, that in their case they knew they had absolutely nothing to do, at all, with Madeleine’s disappearance. And I mean I’ve -- I’ve -- you know Kate was my bridesmaid when she was five, when Brian and I were married, and I’ve known her since she was tiny. So I mean I knew myself, you know, that this was all fabricated nonsense. But it was more than nonsense - it was actually evil, you know - I felt a tremendous sense of evil about the place.
Dommage que l'on ne demande pas à JK ce qu'elle a pensé du refus de répondre aux 48 questions, de la non-reconstitution, etc. Mais probablement la manière dont les médias se sont retournés contre les MC, une volte-face radicale et cruelle, n'incite-t-elle pas à conserver son esprit critique.
AG : Evil is a very strong word to use. What makes you choose a word like that?
JK : Because there were no values, you know. People were acting out lies. There was no integrity. Kate was treated in a really threatening erm -- an absolutely destructive way. But there was also the portrayal -- and it was very much, I felt over the weeks that there was an attempt to demonise Kate. Which interestingly -- I mean, from the sort of distanced point of view -- it’s an interesting thing I’ve observed in the media that often its women who are demonised and are portrayed, you know, as being deeply, deeply devious and, you know… and wicked.
Somehow, that isn’t done in the same way to men. And the fact that Kate’s picture was on the front of so many papers, so many times and they sort of went on about, you know, the fact that she was very, very thin or that, you know, she’d had her hair done, you know -- all those sort of personal comments about her….
CM : I mean again and erm …
JK : …absolutely frightening.
CM : … I need to be careful because there’s still an active police investigation. We have our own private investigation which is firmly running behind the scenes. And elements of what actually happened on the night we can’t -- simply can’t discuss because that would be a breach of Portuguese law.
However-- However-- Janet’s absolutely right. Again, the media has stereotypical expectations in a story of this nature and that one is - that the mother must cry - she must grieve. Kate and Gerry were advised from early on -- we’ve said this on several occasions [to date] -- in the documentary as well -- by the police -- that to show overt emotion plays into the hands of the abductor for all sorts of reasons I won’t go into but fairly obvious at this end. And as a result they were told to try and restrain their emotions in public in the early stages.
And I mean Gerry -- When I first met Gerry when he came over to Rothley a couple of weeks after Madeleine was taken. And as we were going to look at the war memorial with all of the ribbons -- a whole sea of yellow and green, for Madeleine -- he was on the verge of tears and said; ‘[inaudible] is going to see me’ and I said ‘It doesn’t matter you’re her father, if you need to cry, cry.’ As it was, he didn’t.
But Kate has been [inaudible] and she doesn’t recognise herself in some of the early video clips now because she knew what she was going through at the time. She was lambasted and vilified for not showing enough emotion - therefore this must be somehow suspicious. And then when she finally did cry in a Spanish television interview a few weeks later, that was all ‘crocodile tears’ and she was torn apart in discussions over there. So she can’t win. She cannot win, you know. The fundamental fact, as Janet said, is that they are not involved in the disappearance of their daughter. That is the truth.
Déformation professionnelle ? À force d'assainer ce qu'il convient de penser, le spin doctor confond sa croyance avec la vérité. Elle n'en demeure pas moins une croyance, pas un fait.
All of the smears and innuendos started to come out -- appeared they were un-sourced, unnamed; some appeared to be coming from the police direction, some from other directions -- other areas of the system over there. We are not blaming any one individual or any particular officer, other than to say, that some of these smears made their way into print in such a way that they got repeated and repeated and repeated and have now almost become established fact. And that’s one of the hardest things that we have to fight on this. But, you know, we all know the truth of the situation and continue to -- and I continue to represent them on that basis.
I mean I’ve got some of the headlines that I can show you that caused us…
AG : [inaudible]
CM : ….because it was then repeated in the British press and this is why we felt the need to take action as we did against one particular group. I don’t know if we can go to my first slide?
This was one of the first negative stories that came out. This was a supermarket paper Tal & Qual which basically says - my Portuguese is very thin - but basically it says the police suspect the McCann’s of being involved, in that stage, accidental death of Madeleine. Kate, Gerry, everybody associated with it knew this was absolutely untrue. So we moved initially to take action against that paper it -- it funnily enough, has since folded - but that’s one example.
Then the more lurid end of the, of the -- sorry of the Portu -- oh no what’ve I done -- excuse me a second -- this’ll come back -- when it wants to play ball. There is a -- there is a healthy tabloid market in erm -- in Portugal as well -- and if I just go to this -- don’t know why its gone like -- bear with me a second -- lets go to … Here we go – there. 24 Horas - one of their finer newspapers - makes the Sun look like The Times, [Audience Laughs]
Si The Sun ressemblait à The Times, il ne serait pas le quotidien britannique en tête des ventes, et de loin ! Tel un camelot, CM peut raconter tout ce qui lui plaît pour vendre, d'autant plus facilement qu'il ne comprend pas le portugais.
‘Gerry is Not the Biological Father of Madeleine.’ This was another one of the canards that were circulating. Absolutely no basis in reality whatsoever and can be demonstrably proven as such. But no, this was run, front page, colour pictures, all the works, ‘Police are certain this is the case, da da da da,’ Nobody -- Nobody on the record backing it up and when challenged the story just fades away like ice on a summer’s day but nevertheless it enters the mythology around it. We came out and threatened legal action over that one and will continue to do so if it is repeated. But that’s another example of the sort of thing -- and this was happening on a daily basis -- 24 Horas still run this sort of rubbish at the moment. But thankfully, because of what we did with the Daily Express -- the wonderful Express, its -- its moderated some of the behaviour -- some of the attitude at this end, which helps.
Again this is another one - absolutely no truth whatsoever, ‘Syringe Found in Madeleine’s Apartment.’ The sedation just didn’t happen. We’ve done -- or Kate and Gerry have had -- have had independent tests done on Sean, Amelie and Kate to prove beyond categoric doubt -- because of the hair that’s involved -- the length of time your hair takes to grow -- that there were no sedatives administered whatsoever; but this, again, an un-sourced, unsubstantiated claim made in the Portuguese papers becomes almost fact. If you notice there are two little parenthesis around that. Does the reader actually notice those? No, it doesn’t. And in many cases they didn’t even bother to put parentheses on some of these headlines.
And in fact, whenever they talked about blood – which they like to talk about a lot -- there wasn’t any - of any substance, that erm -- that erm, in anyway implicates Kate and Gerry, but nevertheless they like to print that in red at the time - just to make the point.
Standard then, at different stages -- I’m jumping around slightly chronologically here, but to give you an example of some of the things we’re up against on an almost hourly basis, ‘Police Name McCann’s as Top Suspects.’ Well they haven’t. What is a top suspect? What’s a medium or bottom suspect? It’s just – it’s nonsense but it creates this invidious, insidious feeling of somehow there is guilt by association.
Kate and Gerry are arguidos. Now in Portuguese law that simply means, effectively, a person of interest to the inquiry - in the same way that if an officer stops you for a possible traffic offence, and talks to you, you’re a person of interest to him, at that stage. They haven’t been formally accused of any crime; that’s still the case to this day and there is nothing to suggest that they are primary suspects over the other individual in this case who, equally, is in exactly the same status as them. They are, all three of them, of interest to the inquiry and will continue to help the inquiry as-- as and when they need to. But that again, as I say, is the sort of thing that filters into the public consciousness through --
Now this is another winner; on the Tuesday, ‘Madeleine; Parents in the Clear.’ On the Wednesday; ‘DNA Puts Parents in the Frame.’ That was -- that was one particular week. They not only are contradictory on a daily basis - at times they’re contradictory even within the same paper; we had stories that were diametrically opposed on -- in different pages. I highlight the Express because they were the worst offenders but all of the tabloids particularly - and sometimes the broadsheets - were guilty of this as well.
And these were based on un-sourced rumours that were just dropped into the Portuguese press, for whatever reason; whatever the person’s agenda is at the other end - we know that they’re wrong - but, nevertheless, then filtered out into this sort of mainstream coverage here - which then got repeated back in Portugal.
Not just the mainstream papers. Some of the satirical magazines across Europe also felt that they had a chance to have a go at this. This is ‘Find Madeleine’ being used as an advertising brand. Here she is on Kinder chocolate, on nappies, on washing up liquid. This was a German magazine called Titanic - this was their idea of humour. I know there’s a bit of a disconnect between English and German humour at times but this went beyond the pail - and again, we threatened them with legal action. And to their credit the mainstream German press tore into them as well and the magazine, effectively apologised - but in a rather sheepish way.
Fin des slides.
Talking of apologies -- this is essentially what led us to get to this stage with the Express group. We cited over 100 -- 108 specimen articles that were, in the eyes of our lawyers, Carter-Ruck, who are specialists in this field, grossly defamatory. This is quite apart from things that are just defamatory - these are the really nasty ones. And after a lot of discussion with them -the Express - we basically said these -- we have identified this number of articles across your four titles The Daily & Sunday Express, The Star on Sunday & The Daily Star over the last few months. We have said that they [K&G] would take legal action at a time of their choosing. Well we felt the line had to be drawn -- it was continuing on a daily basis. We were being told by the reporters from the Express group that they were under pressure to put Madeleine on the front page every day, regardless of whether they had a real story or not. It was putting upwards of 50 to 60.0000 copies a day onto their sales. So the whole thing had become a commercially driven imperative for them regardless of the facts, or any fairness or sense of decency, or indeed adhering to British libel law.
Carter-Ruck advised us that we had a definite case. The Express -- We sought apologies – damages - for the fund. None of this was done for money. It was done entirely to help the search for Madeleine -- not for Kate and Gerry’s personal benefit -- and front page apologies.
They [The Express] came back initially to say, “Well, that’s all very well, but we’ll give you an exclusive interview with OK magazine in which you can outline all of your concerns.” So we said, “If you think Richard Desmond is going to get an exclusive out of running all this rubbish over the last few months, you’ve got another thought coming,” I wasn’t quite as polite -- our response -- as that. But you -- [Audience laugh] but you get the gist? Their QC then took a look at it and realised that they could not prove one shred of what they had alleged was the truth - and we knew they couldn’t. And as a result he advised them to come forward with these --it’s an over used word -- but these unprecedented front page apologies which we had over the four titles. And the payment of just over half a million went to the fund, as I say.
So, we didn’t want to do it. The media are a fantastic force for good as I said. The mainstream, you know, external media -- quite apart from the whole online debate -- and we didn’t want to effectively damage it. All we -- all we-- our relationship with them -- all we wanted was fair and accurate reporting; responsible reporting, within the parameters of the law that applies to all of us.
Talking about online -- very briefly -- I’m banging through this quite quickly but essentially ‘online,’ as you’ve been discussing throughout the whole conference, is of fundamental importance to the public debate now. And of course the Find Madeleine website is a very, very important vehicle for the family. It acts as our -- a clearing house, if you like, for information on where the campaign’s at. A resource for media -- they can come into it and take pictures, posters and video if necessary. It also, most importantly, is a vehicle for people to give information to our investigation -- we have two new email addresses which is -- it’s recently been revamped and I’ll talk about those briefly in a minute. Gerry also writes a blog on this -- trouble with a blog -- is a monster of course -- you have to keep writing the thing to keep it going and he does update it from time to time, around his current commitments. But the campaign to find Madeleine is as much alive online, through our website -- through the family’s website as it is through some of the external media coverage. So even if we’re not in the papers for a particular reason -- that’s very much a resource that’s moving throughout.
AG : … one of the criticisms that’s been levelled has been, precisely, that Kate and Gerry have been playing such a sophisticated game with the media. Blogging, using the internet…
CM : But who wouldn’t…?
AG :… has become a criticism….
CM : But who wouldn’t? What family in this situation which has access and is computer literate - in this day and age….
AG : But many families don’t…
CM : Many families do these days. And I-- I would defy any family to do something different to what they have done. As I say, I exist because of the phenomenal level of media interest -- they would’ve had to do a lot of that themselves - or Janet and Brian would’ve had to cope with it and they have. But in the modern era the only way to engage with the media given its tentacles and its overriding presence -- the way it is now 24/7 is - I would suggest - to actively engage with it. And of course it’s also helped by the fact, and this is not meant in any derogatory way - but from the Media’s perspective, Madeleine’s situation is a huge story for them and there is massive interest in it and that continues -- it works for the media on all sorts of levels.It’s not just the tragedy of a missing child and her fate and where she is and the search for her, you know. It raises - quite rightly - questions about parenting responsibilities. It raises questions about police cooperation - governmental interest - diplomatic aspects to it. There are lots and lots of different aspects and the public have many differing views on this - for good or bad - and the media is reflecting that. And so they [K&G] find themselves part of a huge monster of a situation. And I would suggest that any other family in that position; with that particular set of circumstances, should and probably would do the same - if they had access to computers and an online capacity these days. It’s not a sophisticated game it’s just dealing with the reality of it.
JK : I mean Kate and I have discussed this, you know, and her response to the criticism is -- the whole point is -- that every child should be sufficiently important for this kind of level of interest -- and trying to find a child. You know out of their loss and their grief, they were spurred on, you know, to actually do research and to find, you know - does this happen? Because in a sense, you know, they said that they were naive to the point where they didn’t realise that this was a danger. They thought it was perfectly safe they were doing the right, responsible thing – like checking on the children every half hour, just about 50 yards away, you know. They were actually being more careful about looking after the children had there been a listening service with Warner’s, you know...
Peut-on encore parler de naïveté lorsqu'on n'a affaire à des demi-analphabètes, mais à des gens éduqués et ayant fait des études supérieures, en l'occurence de médecine ?
CM : Yes
AG : I wonder if they ever have moments of thinking -- because of the media attention and thinking, ‘Let’s draw a line under the media here - let’s do nothing’…
CM : …A lot of the time -- Well a lot of the -- One, that’s impossible, because the media don’t draw a line under it themselves. They still call. They still ring - About every twist and turn. All it takes is somebody to write an email somewhere - a viral email - and it becomes hard fact in Portugal - I get calls about that. All it takes is someone to assume they might be going on holiday soon - I get calls about that.
So even if we sat back and said nothing and a lot of the time -- and recently we haven’t actually done a lot since the documentary of the anniversary -- the calls still come in. Now do you ignore them? If you ignore them then it becomes, “Oh, McCann’s given up - McCann’s not engaging with the media.” And so it -- you have to monitor quite how much you put out there and what you do - that’s true - because you don’t want it to seem as if its overkill and you’re monopolising things. But nevertheless, if the media continues to offer you a platform, what family would not use that platform to find their missing child. There is no evidence – none whatsoever – that Madeleine is dead. And until her fate is established this will continue. It has to.
AG : That’s a commitment from you?
JK : Absolutely. Yes. You know, in the kitchen there’s a -- somebody’s sent a card, you know, and it’s there prominently, “Never, never, never give up.” And we all feel—feel that very strongly, you know. Leave no stone unturned and never give up. And the evidence seems to, you know -- they’ve been very heartened by the positive support that they got when they went to Washington, you know, from NCMEC -- The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children -- from people over there. And they have thoroughly supported what they’re doing to keep Madeleine’s profile high and that there’s a greater chance of her being found if there’s no evidence... And one guy -- can’t think of his name at the minute -- the chap whose daughter came back after about nine or ten months -- can’t think of his name, I’m sorry. But he said, “Never let people take your hope away from you.”
CM : Ed Smart.
JK : Ed Smart...
CM : Ed Smart -- his daughter was recovered after…
JK : …And, you know and we still -- we do hold out hope. We have to. Until there is a resolution as you said earlier. And, you know, the statistics in the States seem to prove, you know, that it is possible for children to come back, even after quite a length of time. And they are the people who’ve really supported Kate and Gerry. And Gerry himself said that after that trip, you know, he really had more hope that Madeleine is still alive.
AG : But I have to ask you -- We’ve seen some of those headlines and, I’m, you know, struck by the Daily Express saying thing one thing one day - and the next thing the next day. I have got to ask you, what does that do to you as person? I mean, never mind if you can -- I don’t know if you can separate them in any way -- the experience of losing Madeleine but the attention of the press and the games that they’ve played with you as a family. What does that do to you? And you Clarence, you’ve also had personal vilification too - personal attacks.
CM : Yeah but I’ll -- I’ll answer that -- but let Janet answer
JK : Well, you know, it is terribly, terribly distressing. You know, Brian and I subscribed to a newspaper for 30 odd years that, you know, has very good journalists. Good sort of challenging reading - all that kind of thing, you know. It purports to have values in terms of the integrity of the journalists and so on. And then way back, in the summer, last year, there was a picture of Kate on the front page of this paper and next to it Ann Enright - the Booker prize, you know, ‘Why we all love to hate the McCanns.’ And then inside an article, that she’d written some time before, but they chose to reprint it. And there was such a denigration of Gerry, you know, who’s a bereaved father; who’s absolutely distraught because his relationship with Madeleine, you know, was so fantastic -- and talking about him, you know; that he’s cold, that he’s controlling, you know, a complete denigration of his character and -- and this...
AG : What does that do to you to see that in a newspaper?
JK : Well I mean -- If I say that we have never -- We don’t have that paper anymore and I wrote to the editor and told him –told him why. Didn’t get a reply I have to say…
CM : That’s the -- That’s the mainstream media if you like. The external online - it’s even worse. Clearly people have views on whether Kate and Gerry were right or wrong to be checking …
JK : Yes that’s fair
CM : … the children as they were. That’s legitimate debate. They made a mistake. They fully accept that. They’ve said that often. And, you know, god forbid, they could pay that price for the rest of their lives - let’s hope not. But where it oversteps the mark is when that debate -- particularly online -- and this is where we talk about values -- and this is the platform that is effectively being given to the modern day lynch mob, in many cases, through this now. It -- it -- Where it almost verges on crim -- incitement to criminality -that’s where it oversteps the mark and our lawyers are looking at that as well. I’m not going to talk about any particular sites or forums because it just satisfies them to think they’ve got us rattled...
AG : But people, when all’s said and done, have said terrible things about you because of your association…
CM : I -- I-- I have been told -- I haven’t read all of it -- but, I have been told, that there have been attempts made to track down my children - to find out what sort of father I am. It’s been alleged that I have been there on the night Madeleine was taken - I was in Britain - utter nonsense. It was alleged that I was buying vast amounts of alcohol for the group on my government credit card - I’ve never had a government credit card - I was not - it’s not true. All total rubbish, lies, rumour, innuendo. But what -- what I’ve gone through is absolutely nothing compared to the vilification that Kate and Gerry have suffered online. They don’t even read it -- its pointless -- doesn’t achieve anything.
Où ces idioties ont-elles été écrites ? Dans aucun journal portugais en tout cas.
AG : Do they read the newspapers?
CM : They used to from time to time it tends to be that I give them an [up…] summary of what’s in it now. But what I’m saying is online -- while it is the, if you like, the 'blogosphere’ for want of a better description -- is incredibly valuable and is a legitimate channel for legitimate public debate. It must surely stay within the bounds of the law and at times some aspects of this haven’t. And as I say, the modern day lynch mob, in effect, have been given voice, and a very high profile voice - and that is disappointing. But frankly we ignore it and we just get on with what we know to be the truth.
AG : What have we learnt about the media and media values over the past 13 months? I mean you’ve come at it from different places. You’ve [CM] played the media game all your life, and for you [JK] it’s been a -- I guess an entirely new experience. What have we learnt?
JK : Well, I know Brian my husband - he has been more involved in giving more interviews, I’ve done far less. And on a daily basis he’s was talking to Sky, to AT-- you know, to everybody, in the early weeks and months. And his own opinion - and I would second that - is that you must keep the media onside because we firmly believe they’re a force for good and that communication isn’t just a neutral thing, you know; communication is important to get one's message out there.
But on the other hand, you know, by dint of bitter experience, we’ve learnt that - as in every profession - there are people who do not possess the kind of values that you would associate with journalists, you know. The examples I gave you, you know, intrusive things to do with, you know, sort of going over a story. And people who actually have written lies in the English press, as well, and made up, you know, that ‘family friend’ says this, or ‘source close to the McCanns.’ And you sort of know the phrase and you know that if they’re saying this – that, you know, it’s probably -- it’s going to be untrue - and it is.
CM : The lack of information coming from any official source in Portugal because police just do not talk -- The lack of that has led to this vacuum that they need to fill. The journalists -- the reporters on the ground I have a great deal of sympathy with; they’re under immense pressure from their desk. The desks are under pressure from proprietors. It’s the biggest story -- human interest story of the decade, etcetera, etcetera. And therefore there is an imperative for them to get something in and that’s when things like that happen. It’s easy to make up a quote because it’s un-sourced - they’ve been running that sort of rubbish from the Portuguese press for weeks anyway - what harm does an extra couple quotes, here or there, make from their point of view. It’s not right, it shouldn’t happen, but it does.
Essentially the -- the desire for the story, in this particular case, has overridden the normal rules; the normal conventions of journalism that would normally take place and I find that depressing. I hope this is a one off case. I hope it doesn’t apply to standards generally in the future.
But in terms of values -- to bring it back to the theme of the debate -- some of the values, I feel at times, have been sorely lacking. Not necessarily through the personal desire of the individual journalist to do the family down or to be nasty or vindictive. It’s more the commercial imperative and the competition that now exists with so many outlets, across so many places now - online, as well as extraterrestrial - that has led to this, if you like, weakening of standards. And I hope that the media themselves can address that in the future and draw some lessons from this.
AG : One last question that I’d like to ask you. To ask you Janet, in a sense, on behalf of the family - and to ask you Clarence, in your own personal capacity - is what keeps you going? What do you draw on?
JK : Well, first of all, just basically, we are a very strong family. There are strong characters in that family and, you know, I think that probably has kept us together - very much - in that there’s been, you know, not just the immediate nuclear family but an extended family of people from, you know, cousins and so on, who’ve given tremendous support. And I have to say, you know, as a catholic, obviously, that I feel you know myself and I think Kate and Gerry feel very strongly that it is really, you know, our faith, you know, that has kept us going. You know right back in Portugal, you know, the three things that they quoted, you know - hope, strength and courage.
AG : Has your faith not been knocked by…
JK : Absolutely -- It certainly has. It wouldn’t be human, you know, if it hadn’t -- if you were questioning, you know, why Lord, you know, have we not got a result? You know why aren’t you telling us where Madeleine is? Why do we have to wait so long? But, you know, quite honestly that’s what we have to say, you know. The psalms are full of questioning. It’s all about questioning. If you didn’t question your faith it wouldn’t be a strong faith in my opinion. I think we do question…
AG : ... believe me that’s not the first time we’ve heard that, even today.
JK : To have a real relationship with God, you’ve got to be absolutely truthful and honest with Him. And He doesn’t want you to just be ‘nicely nicely,’ you know. He wants you to be up front and to really, really challenge Him. That’s what it’s all about. But having said that, both in the village -- with the ecumenical aspect of all the […] -- and the little Catholic Church that we go to -- I mean every Sunday after mass people stay behind willingly to say the rosary and nobody goes, unless they’re visitors and they don’t know. So there’s tremendous support, you know, a thread of support. And the letters that have come as well from, you know, thousands – and boxes and boxes of letters and you just know --
And the Anglican Bishop of Leicester did a walkabout through his diocese some -- about two months ago and we went to meet him, and he said, “I hope you are aware,” which we are, “that there is a circle of global prayer all around you” And I think we feel actually very strongly, I have to say, that there’s strong global prayer everywhere. And even in the darkest moments, you know, there’s just that thread of support and prayer going through. I have to be honest that’s how we cope.
AG : Clarence I’ve no idea whether you come to this from a perspective of faith or not. What keeps you going?
CM : I -- I admit I’m not particularly religious. I’m not a catholic. But I have seen the strength that Gerry and Kate’s faith, indeed the wider family, has given them at times. Yeah, they’ve had wobbles - there’s no doubt about that. They --And, you know, sometimes I walk in full of the latest: “You won’t believe this, this…” and suddenly you sense the mood, it’s changed. And they have good days and they have bad days but nevertheless it is a central focus, very much - for Kate particularly - I think it’s fair to say. And, you know, what it would’ve been like without that for them, I-- I --I dread to think.
AG : What about you?
CM : What about me? What keeps me going is that they were kind enough to ask me to help. As a father of three myself -- one of my girls is two years old; in many respects I see Madeleine in her, in a way -- and I think what on earth can they really going through even though I’m with them on a regular basis and talk to them every day. It’s hard really to understand that. So if a family in that situation is kind enough and generous enough to ask me to help - it is the very least I can do - to continue doing that - and I will continue to support them in any way I can. As long as the media monster is growling at the gate I will keep dealing with it
AG : I mean are you in this for the long haul? We know that…
CM : I’m in this for the long haul. I’m in this for -- At the moment I am employed by Brian Kennedy, (no relation to the other Brian Kennedy; there are too many Brian Kennedys in this story) who is one of the backers who kindly stepped in - once Kate and Gerry were made arguidos - to help them on the financial side and he currently picks up my salary. My -- In future whether I stay with him or develop it into a business of my own I don’t know that’s something we will -- we’re having active discussions on at the moment. But I certainly will continue to represent Kate and Gerry for as long as they, and the wider family, want me to.
AG : We need to draw this to a halt. One of my moving moments of this conference happened this morning, when the conference was in session here, and I happened to be out in the lobby where there’s a little display focussing on missing and vulnerable children. And a bunch of 13 and 14 year old school children came through here. They use the sports hall; they’re from the local school and I went out and found them gathered round, on the floor, around the candles in front of this display. And one of the little girls said to me - well not so little, she was about 14 - 15 - she said to me, “Haven’t they found Madeleine yet?” and I said “No.” And she said, “Well, can I light a candle then?” and I said “Yes.” And she did and so did several of the others. And we’ll continue to do that.
That you so much for coming and joining us - and for being so frank, and open, and honest with us. Clarence and Janet thank you very much.