Cape Town – The researcher who faked his way onto The Huffington Post’s blog platform, to make a point about the media, did not want to talk about the resignation of its editor Verashni Pillay on Saturday, following a damning Press Ombudsman finding against her.
“I have no comment at this time,” said political science graduate Marius Roodt, when Pillay resigned after the ombudsman found her guilty of publishing hate speech and breaching several sections of the Press Code.
Roodt submitted a piece, “Could It Be Time To Deny White Men The Franchise”, pretending to be a scholar of feminism named Shelley Garland.
It was published by The Huffington Post on April 13, 2017, under that pseudonym and touched a nerve among some readers.
It also became evident that Shelley Garland did not exisit.
Pillay initially defended the piece as being in line with feminist thinking, but eventually pulled it on discovering that Garland did not exist.
Roodt was tracked down by the publication, through his email address, to the Centre for Development and Enterprise in Johannesburg.
He has since resigned, and said he was sorry, but explained that he was motivated by his belief that there was a lack of fact checking in South African journalism.
“I just thought you can say almost anything you want… not necessarily attacking white men. I think there is a lack of fact checking in South African journalism. I thought, would it work? And it worked. In hindsight ,I wouldn’t have done it, I didn’t think it would get this big,” Roodt was quoted as saying.
‘I respect the office of the press ombudsman’
DA MP John Steenhuisen had been among those who had called for Pillay’s head.
“I think she’s done the honourable thing and I give her full credit for that,” said Steenhuisen on her resignation.
Ernst Roets, CEO of lobby group AfriForum, was one of the complainants to the Press Ombudsman.
He said he welcomed the ombudsman’s findings because AfriForum believed that white men could be accused of anything in national discussions and debate, and that this was regarded as acceptable.
On Pillay’s resignation he said: “I can’t say that it makes me happy or sad, but I think it is the most appropriate thing to do.”
Pillay’s phone was off, but her resignation was announced by Andreij Horn, head of 24.com.
“Her resignation followed immediately on the release earlier today of the findings of the press ombudsman that a blog published on the site was ‘malicious’ and ‘discriminatory’,” Horn said in a statement.
Editorial control over the site has been reassigned, with Ferial Haffajee, The Huffington Post SA’s editor-at-large, and Pieter du Toit, the site’s deputy editor, taking over editorial management of the site immediately until a new editor is appointed.
According to Horn, Pillay said: “I respect the office of the press ombudsman and have decided to tender my resignation. Thank you to Media24 for this opportunity and all the best to the team at HuffPost SA going forward.”