HEWITT AND THE SMOKING HOSTAGE
"It was deplorable that the woman hostage should be shown smoking. This sends completely the wrong message to our young people," Patricia Hewitt was quoted as saying about the television coverage of the Marines captured in Iraq. It is a quotation that seems to sum up a kind of New Labour health-faddist bossiness and has been trotted out repeatedly since - by Simon Hoggart in the Guardian, by Jonah Goldberg in the National Review, by countless blogs and websites and today by Fergus Kelly in the Daily Express (not online, as far as I can see).
Hewitt has been ridiculed for weeks over this remark, being described as 'humourless', 'purse-lipped' a health fascist and worse. The trouble is, she didn't actually utter the words for which she is being pilloried, or anything like them. they were invented by Daily Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker as an April Fool hoax. Here's his grudging apology to Ms Hewitt. Maybe journalists should check their sources slightly more assiduously.