Admitting to a mistake that would embarrass even a local newspaper hack, an American journalist has been forced into a grovelling apology after withdrawing his false assertion – in one of the world’s most influential magazines – that the Irish President is gay.
David Monagan had wrongly described President Michael D Higgins as an “acknowledged homosexual” in Forbes Magazine, one of the foremost business publications in the US.
The claim would have come as something of a shock for Mr Higgins, who has been happily married to his actress wife Sabina since 1974.
Within hours of publishing the article – concerning the US nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who is originally from Ireland – the author admitted he had made a “terrible” mistake and apologised to the head of state. Mr Monagan said it was the worst mistake of his career and expressed his regret to the Higgins family.
The apology came only after the article had been widely read on the magazine’s website. The article was available to Forbes’ massive readership (it had 45 million unique online visitors in January) for a number hours before the magazine became aware of the error, and the editorial was removed from its online content.
The author, who is based in Cork, conceded that the claim made about President Higgins was the “worst mistake” he had ever made and said he felt “horrible” about the blunder.
It was a particularly embarrassing error for the internationally acclaimed publication, which is prides itself on providing information for the world’s elite business leaders. Forbes Magazine describes itself as a go-to source for reliable news on business, finance, economics and politics.
Mr Monagan said the mistake should not have been made and would ordinarily have been spotted by the magazine’s editors before publication. “I feel horrible. The story is that I made a mistake, for which I apologise from my heart,” he said. “It was under deadline pressure and is inexcusable. I have been reporting on the most complex, difficult things, including cardiovascular medicine for 35 years and I have never had a mistake like this.
“I have written millions of words about Ireland and this is the worst mistake I have ever made,” he added. “I made a terrible mistake and I apologise to Michael D Higgins who I have respect for.”
Mr Higgins, variously described as a poet, sociologist, author and broadcaster, has four children with his wife – twins John and Michael Jnr, along with Alice Mary and Daniel. Even before he was elected, Mr Higgins was one of the most recognisable figures in Irish politics thanks to his white hair, diminutive stature, and his much-imitated, distinctive voice.
While he is known for his firebrand politics, he is also an ardent patron of the arts, and a champion of civil and human rights issues.
The magazine’s apology noted that the article which appeared on Forbes.com contained a “serious error,” one which both Forbes and Monagan “sincerely regret”.