On June 1st, the Mail on Sunday published what purported to be a report on my interview with their Political Editor Simon Walters.
In fact, the piece bore little or no relation to our interview, and appears to be simply a pre-cooked hatchet job, packed with deliberate and defamatory lies. I have written to Mr. Walters in the following terms.
Simon Walters – Political Editor, Mail on Sunday
A few days ago I took time out of my busy by-election schedule for an interview with you. You raised the issue of homosexuality. I was reluctant to spend time on it, as it is not high on my agenda and it certainly doesn’t seem to exercise voters in Newark — it has never once been raised with me in the street or on the doorstep. And I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the media’s relentless obsession with a few tangential remarks on social issues from years ago, and reluctance to address the real issues of either the euro-elections or the Newark campaign. Nevertheless I answered your questions clearly and honestly.
So I was shocked to read your subsequent story, in which you assert that I “called for gay cures on the NHS”. This is a deliberate and defamatory lie. I said no such thing. You have deliberately and knowingly published a false and defamatory statement a few days ahead of a critical by-election, with the prima facie objective of influencing the outcome of that election. I understand that this represents an offence under electoral law
The question arose because of a minor furore in the media three years ago over therapists and/or religious groups who claimed to be able to reverse an individual’s sexual orientation. There was a great deal of strident and aggressive criticism from the gay lobby at the time, both against those offering such “treatment”, and against individuals who sought it. I felt that this criticism was deeply illiberal, and that if an individual believes that a course of treatment would help him, or might help him, then in a free country he should be entitled to pursue it.
I also made a comparison with homeopathy, another therapy about whose efficacy there is widespread scepticism. I don’t know whether a person’s sexual orientation can be changed, and I don’t know if homeopathy works. In both cases I doubt it. But as a libertarian I defend the right of those who think either might work to engage with them.
Let’s be clear: I have never said that homosexuality is “an illness”, or that it can be “cured”. I have never asserted that homosexuals can be “turned”. I have never advocated “gay cures”.
In particular I would vehemently oppose any move to offer “gay cures” on the NHS. No treatment should be offered on the NHS unless it is of proven clinical efficacy and demonstrable cost-effectiveness. I am not aware of any proposal to offer “gay cures” on the NHS — this appears to be a figment of your imagination. But if there were any such proposal, I should oppose it robustly. Your suggestion that I “called for gay cures on the NHS” is a downright and preposterous lie, and a deliberate attempt to damage my reputation.
In fact you have not written up our interview at all. You have simply written up your own preconceived stereotype of what a UKIP candidate might be like, and you have totally ignored what I actually said to you. This is nothing less than a deliberate hatchet job.
Nowhere is your trashy journalism more evident than in your description of me as “a retired colonel”. Had you asked, or had you done a scrap of relevant research, you would have found that I am not a retired colonel, and that I have never served in the Armed Forces at any time.
Will you please now issue an immediate retraction and apology, ahead of Thursday’s by-election. If you fail to do so, I shall certainly refer the matter to the Press Complaints Commission, and I will also consider what legal remedies may be available.
ROGER HELMER MEP