Update Oct 7: The Guardian has admitted it swallowed pro-Corbyn propaganda whole after an internal investigation took its editors to task and resulted in this correction:
Despite stonewalling Heat Street‘s questions at the time, an internal review at the paper savaged gullible editors for swallowing the puff story, which had already been rejected by BuzzFeed. More details at Guido Fawkes.
Original report August 24:
The Guardian has refused to clarify its role in the Jeremy Corbyn “traingate” scandal which has seen the Labour leader accused of lying to score political points.
Mr Corbyn was forced into a corner yesterday after images emerged showing him ignoring empty seats in favour of sitting on the floor in the corner of the train.
From his lowly perch he recorded a viral video, where he criticised the “ram-packed” train and called for renationalisation of the railways:
The footage – which was viewed hundreds of thousands of times – was first published on The Guardian.
It was bylined to Charles B Anthony, a video producer who was on the train with Corbyn, as well as staff reporter Karen McVeigh.
The paper has so far refused to answer questions put to it by Heat Street of whether it was aware that Mr Corbyn was misleading viewers by claiming there was nowhere for him to sit.
The newspaper reported the controversy today, without mentioning that its own reporting was the reason the original claim came to light. The sympathetic write-up was headlined “Corbyn fends off Branson attack”, implying that they buy his defence.
— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) August 23, 2016
In a segment on LBC radio this morning, Guardian political editor Anushka Asthana tried to defend Corbyn again. She added: “I’m partly defending them because I know the guy who filmed it and I trust him”.
It remains unclear how exactly the paper came to possess the video, which it ran five days after it was filmed.
The original story namechecks cameraman Yannis Mendez, who has worked for the Guardian before but is now a volunteer on the Corbyn campaign.
It is unclear to what extent Anthony, also part of the Corbyn operation, was allowed to present the facts of the matter unchallenged.
In a lengthy defence of the segment on Twitter after the version of events was called into question by Virgin Trains, he pointed to a paragraph seemingly removed by Guardian editors, which clarified that Corbyn later got a seat.
— Charles B. Anthony (@CharlesBAnthony) August 23, 2016
However, even that paragraph is contentious, as Virgin’s images appear to show Corbyn seated before any passengers had “got off”. According to The Times, Corbyn was seated after an aide asked train staff to make room for him, a strategy which rarely works for normal commuters.
The version online yesterday at the time the scandal broke made no mention of that.
It also made no mention of the numerous unoccupied seats which Corbyn is pictured walking past, on images timestamped at a point in the journey before he recorded the footage:
Heat Street asked The Guardian‘s press office whether any efforts were made to check Corbyn’s claims of being left seatless, but got no comment in return.
The paper came close to cheerleading for the Labour leader while introducing the original story, which said: “Jeremy Corbyn, famed for standing up for his principles, sat down for them last week, along with 20 other seatless commuters on a three-hour train journey from London to Newcastle.”
The original story was a huge success – almost 9,000 readers commented on it and many rival outlets produced their own version.
It was a victory for Corbyn too, who received plaudits from commuters and was compared favourably with politicians who travel first class.
Although the Guardian is not absolutely uncritical of Corbyn, and has called for him to resign in an editorial, it is closer to him than any other serious newspaper.
The party’s head of press, Seumas Milne, is a former columnist.
Heat Street attempted to speak with everyone involved in writing the story but has yet to have any points addressed.
McVeigh directed questions about the story to the Guardian press office, which has yet to respond. Anthony did not respond to a direct request.