herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

RTE admits it broadcast bogus Gallagher tweet

RTE has admitted that it broadcast a bogus tweet concerning presidential candidate Sean Gallagher just three days before polling day.

Mr Gallagher has made a formal complaint over what happened during the crucial final television debate between the candidates last year.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is investigating the complaint by Mr Gallagher over the tweet, which damaged his electoral prospects when he had been ahead in the polls.

The tweet read out by The Frontline presenter Pat Kenny falsely claimed to be from the campaign team of Sinn Fein candidate Martin McGuinness.

Mr Gallagher has pointed out that a tweet from the real McGuinness campaign, which made it clear that it was not the source of the earlier bogus tweet was received minutes later. However he claims that no attempt was made by The Frontline to tell the audience, even though the second tweet arrived 28 minutes before the end of the programme.

In a letter sent to the BAI within the last week, RTE said: "What was inaccurate, and RTE accepted this and has expressed its regret, was the provenance of the tweet. It appears that the tweet which purported to come from the official Martin McGuinness campaign site was actually a bogus account made to look like the official account."

However it is understood that RTE is resisting Mr Gallagher's claim that it failed to broadcast corrective information. The BAI is continuing to investigate the complaint and its compliance committee is due to meet later this month on the issue.

A spokesman for Mr Gallagher said that he was pursuing his complaint that RTE's broadcast was not presented in a fair, objective or impartial manner.

His complaint centres around a debate on The Frontline on October 24.

Earlier in the debate, Sinn Fein candidate Martin McGuinness claimed Mr Gallagher had called to a businessman's house to collect a €5,000 cheque for Fianna Fail. Mr Gallagher had denied this.

At 10.39pm the bogus tweet was posted which claimed that "the man that Gallagher took the cheque from will be at a press conference tomorrow."

At 10.49pm, Pat Kenny addressed Mr Gallagher saying "on the Martin McGuinness for President account, Sinn Fein are saying they are going to produce the man who gave you the cheque for five grand." His question disconcerted Mr Gallagher who stumbled in his answer.

At 11.02pm a tweet came from the official McGuinness campaign account saying: "We have made no comment on the Gallagher FF donation issue."

fdillon@herald.ie

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