#MaraGate

sunday times gareth cliff

Last Sunday I finished my last season as an Idols judge. I intended to leave on a high note, having completed a terrific trip to New York with ProVerb and the Top 4 Idols and a record-breaking season. The finale should have been about the winner, Noma, and the audience who love the show. The Sunday Times had other ideas.
On Sunday morning the day of the Idols finale, I woke up to the news that “I gave Marah that ‘spiked’ drink, say Gareth Cliff”. Can you imagine – a false headline, focussed on a non-story from 6 seasons before, on the day we were about to finish a monumental eleventh season of this hit show? I was furious.
I’m used to newspapers getting it wrong, twisting a line out of context, concocting a provocative headline to sell enough of their papers to stave off the inevitable decline of profitable print media. But this was outrageous. That headline made it sound like I was admitting to a crime. The article itself was full of factual inaccuracies that the Sunday Times have since admitted to. Here’s an extract from the reply Susan Smuts, Managing Editor of the Sunday Times sent to my lawyer, Eric Mabuza:
“Thank you for your letter dated November 28 2016, which was forwarded to me today. We concede that the subheading and the second paragraph misinterpreted what your client wrote in his book.In particular we concede that your client did not write that he had cost Ms Louw her job or that he poured her a drink of vodka.”
Misinterpreted? Either I said it or I didn’t. I didn’t, so there’s no interpretation necessary. What the Sunday Times unleashed was a tirade of hysterical accusations and insults on social media that had me branded everything from a Bill Cosby-type date-rapist to a white man who cost a black woman her job. It was all based on absolute nonsense, so all of it was totally unjustified. I don’t mind taking responsibility for things that I HAVE done or things that I HAVE said, but this was made up. I’ve never spiked anyone’s drink, let alone a colleague twice my age.
The Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine, SABC, MTV Base, eNCA and other smaller publications joined in this slovenly mess by re-publishing the story as a fact. Not one journalist called me to fact check anything at all. Not a single one. When we talk about fake news, this is what we mean.
Our lawyers have asked for an unreserved apology and the Sunday Times are dragging their feet. To sell their tawdry paper, they’re happy to damage reputations. I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last. Sad state of journalism…..

8 Comments

  1. Anni Mason says:

    Personally, can’t stand Sunday Times. They’ve ALWAYS been sensationalist. And if they DO publish an apology it will be in the bottom bottom of the corner of page 99! I’m so sick of bad lazy journalists in SA. Very few good ones left.

  2. Travis says:

    Well, what then ARE the facts? Simply denying the report isn’t enough. Unless your real intention is to get us to buy your book and find out for ourselves. Forget it. If this is the most interesting story you have to tell, no wonder the Sunday Times was forced to spice it up a little.

  3. ex-journalist says:

    hilarious, lazy bunch they are to be sure… the Sunday Times was a joke when I worked there, worse even, if that’s possible, than SAPA, who used to rehash month-old stories (from other publications)and redistribute through the wires; a shocker. A bevy of entitled old-school self-opiniated hacks

  4. Steyn says:

    Sue them for all they have. You deserve to be apologized to by means of a truck load of money.

    Your reputation is worth more than any presenter of idols, ever. And of course all the news papers bad mouthing you

  5. Steyn says:

    Travis, you are allegedly a tosser

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