UK
12/02/2015 10:51 GMT | Updated 12/02/2015 15:59 GMT

Cathy Newman, Channel 4 Presenter, Apologises To Mosque, Announces Break From Twitter

Cathy Newman has been publicly rebuked by her employers Channel 4 and apologised for claiming she was "ushered" out of a mosque, after CCTV of her leaving South London Islamic Centre was revealed by The Huffington Post UK.

In a strongly worded statement, the editor of Channel 4 News, Ben de Pear, said he was "disappointed" in Newman and called her language "poorly chosen". HuffPost UK understands that de Pear personally delivered two letters Wednesday when he met with the Imam and the committee of the mosque to offer an “unreserved apology” on behalf of Channel 4 News.

South London Islamic Centre say they have accepted Newman's apology, but lamented the "deafening silence" of the past week, and said the journalist had not just chosen her words poorly but "painted a picture of an incident that never occurred".

The presenter said on Thursday that she sent her tweets "in haste", accepts they were "inappropriate". Newman has been subject to harsh criticism on Twitter since the CCTV was published, and used her final tweet on Thursday to announce she is taking a break from the social network.

On Friday, the South London Islamic Centre, where Newman had claimed she was turned away despite turning up wearing a headscarf, said surveillance video showed the reporter arriving at the mosque, being directed by a male congregant, but leaving alone through the courtyard.

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Newman sparked a social media firestorm after tweeting she was "ushered onto the street" during 'Visit My Mosque Day' which the mosque said provoked threatening voicemails which it has reported to police.

The story was covered by the national media, but it later emerged Newman had actually gone to the wrong location, and her Channel 4 colleagues were waiting for her 15 minutes away at a mosque that was taking part in the open day.

De Pear has since visited the Streatham mosque to take two letters of apology, one from Newman and one from de Pear himself, saying he had "spoken to [Newman] at length and expressed my disappointment at her actions."

“Her language was poorly chosen and caused your mosque untold and undeserved hurt. This was never her intention and we deeply regret that it had happened,” the letter read.

Newman wrote in her own letter to the mosque: “After leaving your mosque, I hastily tweeted my interpretation of events. I accept my language was poorly chosen and has caused offence. This was never my intention and I would like to offer my sincere apologies.

"Channel 4 News has a particularly strong relationship with the Muslim community and we pride ourselves on representing your views with balance and accuracy - a responsibility we take very seriously.”

She said the intention had been to film a “positive news story about Visit My Mosque day".

Mohammed Ali, a trustee of the mosque, responded in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

The last few weeks have been some of the toughest in our small mosque's history. Never before in our 37 years of welcoming worshippers from South London have we been thrust into the national spotlight as we have this month.

Cathy Newman's tweets (suggesting she was forcibly ejected from our Mosque for being a woman) and the ensuing controversy opened the way for Islamophobes to threaten South London Islamic Centre with attacks against its congregation and its property.

After initially standing by her claim that she was "ushered" out of our Mosque , CCTV evidence showed no such event took place.

Then ensued a deafening silence from both Cathy Newman and Channel 4 news after footage from the CCTV emerged. An apology eventually followed, over a week after the tweets that endangered members of our congregation and tarnished our Centre's reputation in the national press.

We accept this apology in the spirit it was offered . The programmes editor Ben De Pear has been gracious in his attempts to repair the damage done.

In her apology, Cathy Newman laments her "poorly" chosen words which she believes "caused offence". We were not offended by her choice of words. We were deeply disappointed that her instinctive reaction to a confusing episode was to assume that she was being mistreated by Muslim men on the account of her gender.

"It was this assumption, exacerbated by the hyperbole in her tweets that caused the maelstrom of abuse and national controversy our Centre was subjected to.

These were not just poorly chosen words - they painted a picture of an incident that never occurred.

If any good can possibly come out of this incident, we hope that it will remind public figures of the need to be judicious not just in the language they use, but in considering how their view of our faith is tainted by the fog of Islamophobia which is increasingly clouding our national dialogue.

Channel 4 News has a reputation for challenging these facile narratives that dominate our media. We hope it will continue to do so.

The CCTV clips revealed by HuffPost UK last week show the journalist entering the mosque and beginning to take off her shoes while having a very brief conversation with a congregant in the lobby. The man gestures several times to the left, pointing her in a specific direction. She puts her shoe back on, and leaves alone, walking through the courtyard. The entire encounter lasts just seconds.

Newman initially apologised after HuffPostUK revealed the CCTV footage for "misunderstanding" what had occurred.

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Footage from inside the mosque of the Channel 4 presenter arriving

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The man in the striped jumper (circled) can be seen in a brief exchange with Newman inside the mosque but does not follow her

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Cathy Newman leaving South London Islamic Centre alone

The journalist had only tweeted once since the CCTV came to light, about a news story that was unconnected, but appeared on the channel's news bulletins last week. She will return to the programme tonight, HuffPost UK understands, and won't be taken off air.

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, the MP for Streatham where the mosque is situated, said he welcomed the apology.

"I am very proud to be the constituency MP of the South London Islamic Centre - an important part of our community," he said. "[It's] very important our news media treats every community in the UK on the same fair basis and stops to ask questions before rushing to judgement.

"We all make mistakes so broadcaster Cathy Newman's unreserved apology today to the South London Islamic Centre is most welcome."

Many on social media have since commented that her second apology should now draw a line under the matter.

South London Islamic Centre have told Huffington Post they are discussing their response to a separate letter they have received from Newman.

Others have suggested Newman should have herself offered a detailed explanation for what did occur on that day, with the New Statesman calling it "half-hearted'.