10:32, November 28 60 0 theguardian.com

2017-11-28 10:32:04
Mail Online to pay damages to teacher over Katie Hopkins column

Mail Online, the sister website of the Daily Mail, has apologised and agreed to pay “substantial damages” to a teacher whom the columnist Katie Hopkins falsely accused of taking her class to a Donald Trump protest in Westminster.

The apology to Jackie Teale, the teacher, was published on Mail Online on Tuesday morning and posted by Hopkins on her Twitter account.

It said that Hopkins was wrong to state that Teale had taken her class to the protest and that she had actually taken a banner made by some of the 12-year-old pupils in her class. “We apologise to Ms Teale for this error and have agreed to pay Ms Teale substantial damages and legal costs,” Mail Online said.

The apology emerged the day after it emerged that Hopkins had left the website after two years. The website said Hopkins’s contract had not been renewed “by mutual consent” and declined to provide further details. Her last column was published on 5 October.

The column that brought about the apology was published online in February and was headlined: “Schools are supposed to teach kids HOW to think for themselves, not WHAT to think. So why are so many liberal teachers bullying and brain-washing children with their own intolerant views?”

Teale revealed in an article for the Guardian – published before Hopkins’s false allegation – how she had spoken to Hopkins on Twitter about taking the banner to the protest. The banner included a Martin Luther King quote.

“Hopkins quickly reposted my tweet proclaiming that I was ‘brainwashing’ children,” Teale wrote. “My Twitter feed went crazy. Setting aside the personal attacks, people were calling for me to resign. I should be sacked. ‘Someone’, they said, would be in contact with me about this. They began circulating links to the Department for Education and encouraged each other to register complaints with them to inform them of my ‘illegal’ activities.

“This is when I started to panic. Not because I was worried about the personal repercussions, but because I did not want my actions to have any negative impact on the school where I work and my great colleagues. The other thing that concerned me was that people were embellishing the story. Post-truth reigns supreme on social media because anyone can say anything.”

Hopkins rose to fame when she appeared in the third series of The Apprentice, and she wrote for the Mail Online for two years after leaving the Sun. But she has been accused of publishing deliberate provocation in her columns and tweets rather than legitimate commentary.

One of her most controversial pieces involved comparing African migrants crossing the Mediterranean with “cockroaches” and calling for gunboats to stop migrants reaching their destination.

The United Nations said the column – which appeared in the Sun in April 2015 – was hate speech and used language similar to that used by those behind the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

Her weekly show on the radio station LBC was stopped in May after Hopkins posted a tweet about the Manchester Arena attack that called for a “final solution” for Muslims in Britain. It provoked a backlash on social media because of the phrase’s connections to the Holocaust. Hopkins subsequently said the post was a “typo” and replaced “final” with “true”.

Hopkins drew criticism last month for a tweet inaccurately stating that a road accident outside the Natural History Museum was a terrorist attack. She said afterwards: “I stand by the idea that it’s a terror attack. I don’t shy away from that. It’s my personal opinion.”