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Statement On False Claim That Shadowproof Outed Person With Disability

A senior media specialist for the National Education Association, Robyn Swirling, posted to Facebook and Twitter the false claim that Shadowproof outed someone with a disability in a news report on a development related to the case of Trevor FitzGibbon. The senior vice president of Revolution Messaging, Sean Carlson, who is another media professional, promoted the false claim as well.

Shadowproof published the following, which was attributed to Al Thomson, the former senior vice president of finance and administration for FitzGibbon Media:

Thomson asserted this was not true of the firm. [Molly] Haigh claimed a medical problem and was given “triple the allotted time” for recovery. She was “repeatedly given time off,” and it went on for three months.

“The idea that there wasn’t compassion or some kind of accommodation is blatantly absurd. The maternity and paternity-related family care was more generous than almost any other firm, recognizing we have a small staff,” Thomson added.

Thomson never described any specific details about Haigh’s “medical condition.” Trevor FitzGibbon never described any specific details about Haigh’s “medical condition.” No person who used to work at FitzGibbon Media or is acquainted with Haigh described any “medical condition” in any detail. Importantly, no details were ever provided for the purpose of reporting on the development in the story of sexual allegations against FitzGibbon.

Swirling, however, publicized details about Haigh’s “medical condition” that were unknown to Shadowproof and then claimed in a Facebook posting that it was FitzGibbon and/or Shadowproof that outed Haigh.

Here is the posting:


Swirling accused FitzGibbon of violating the American with Disabilities Act and wrote, “The piece calls Molly’s well-documented disability ‘a claimed medical condition.’ It isn’t lost on me — and shouldn’t be that there is a long history of doubting women’s medical issues.”

Carlson unremorsefully informed managing editor and journalist, Kevin Gosztola, that he spread the falsehood too:

Shadowproof had no idea that Molly Haigh, a former employee of FitzGibbon Media who was interviewed, had a disability. The statement by Swirling is the first time that Gosztola ever learned anything related to the fact that Haigh has a disability.

If Haigh did not want this information out there, then Swirling should not have posted the detail on her Facebook. She also should not have tweeted the following at Gosztola in response to his news report:

Fortunately for Haigh, who did not want her disability to be publicized, Swirling’s tweet only received one like and no retweets.

Swirling never was employed by or contracted to work for FitzGibbon Media, as far as Shadowproof can tell. So, it is unclear how she knew of Haigh’s disability and was in a position to allege (albeit falsely) that she was outed.

This is unprofessional conduct on the part of Swirling, and Shadowproof sincerely hopes it ceases immediately. If it continues, it may rise to the level of libelous conduct because violating the privacy of someone with a disability is an exceptionally serious matter and Shadowproof would never engage in such an atrocious act.

Update — 7:50 PM ET

The above statement was updated to reflect the fact that the senior vice president of Revolution Messaging, Sean Carlson, spread this false claim. In fact, he asked Gosztola why he was not mentioned in the statement. Shadowproof was unaware he was involved in this unprofessional conduct as well. So, in the spirit of inclusivity, Carlson was added to the statement.

If more examples of media professionals spreading this false and potentially libelous claim are found or brought to Shadowproof’s attention, they will be added to this statement.

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