SMH Suspends Columnist Over False Rape Column


Sydney Morning Herald columnist Paul Sheehan has been suspended over an “unsubstantiated” rape story, published last month.

The editor-in-chief of the Sydney Morning Herald, Darren Goodsir, issued a formal statement on Friday apologising again for the column and “the hurt and distress it understandably caused,” according to a report in Daily Mail

‘The formal review, which included a comprehensive examination of editorial processes, found unacceptable breaches of fundamental journalistic practice,’ Goodsir wrote.

‘The columnist, who has apologised for the report and admitted this serious lapse, will stand aside from his duties until further notice.

Sheehan and Goodsir have previously apologised for the article, which was headlined ‘The story of Louise: the hidden scale of the rape epidemic’.

Sheehan particularly focussed his apology on “aspersions” against Middle Eastern people as well as purported inaction by the NSW Police.

It remains unclear whether Sheehan will return to the SMH. He did not immediately comment on his suspension.

The column was so graphic in its details of an anal, oral and vaginal rape that it deeply upset many readers. The Herald ran the piece off its front page and it appeared across Fairfax Media’s websites, according to The Guardian .

It was initially amended on February 24, as Sheehan wrote a second column admitting “the possibility that her story had been carefully constructed on a foundation of embellishments, false memories and fabrications.”

The woman , who went by her middle name Louise, about whom the case is reported told Sheehan she had fallen asleep in her car near St Mary’s Cathedral and woke to a man pulling her leg before she was punched in the face.

“In the story recounted to me by Louise, she made insulting references to rapes committed by Middle Eastern men. I had wrongly amplified this insult by including her words in the column,” Sheehan wrote.

Sheehan has been a columnist and editorial writer for the SMH for more than two decades.

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