The PCC have been in touch regarding the two complaints made so far. To summarise:
- The Mail has argued that the second Amanda quote is not about adoption per se, but about whether the best thing for children is to be brought up in the home of a married couple.
- The Mail has previously argued that the evidence for same-sex adoption being harmless is insignificant and inconclusive, so are in hard position to argue that there is evidence that married couples are better. On that basis, they're removing the 'backed by an increasing weight of academic evidence' bit of the quote from the website and annotating their internal files to show that a challenge was lodged against this claim.
- The Mail has not denied that other studies may disagree with its position.
- Throughout they have defended the right to express opinion in an opinion piece.
The PCC representative also suggested that, should this go to the Commission, they are unlikely to rule on the persuasiveness of the evidence on either side, but merely whether the Mail can justify a claim that 'repeated studies' back its position.
Various bits of this defence are untenable. We can, for instance, proudly stand behind the Mail's right to an opinion while still feeling that they shouldn't make claims about evidence which isn't there. The assertion that Amanda's second comment was not related to same-sex adoption, despite appearing in a paragraph discussing the attitudes of an adoption charity to same-sex adoption is also very questionable, and falls foul of their earlier claims to insignificant research into same-sex adoption in the same way as Amanda's first comment did. The claim that it has not denied that other studies find in favour of same-sex adoption doesn't really help with the misleading nature of the claims.
More pressing, however, is the fact that the Mail has laid claim to 'an increasing weight of academic evidence' and 'repeated studies' which I have not been able to find. The Mail have cited, as predicted, Patricia Morgan and, unexpectedly, Iain Duncan Smith. These do not constitute 'repeated studies' (Morgan is definitely a review piece, devoted mainly to undermining cherry-picked same-sex research, I doubt Duncan Smith was doing primary research), nor 'an increasing weight of academic evidence'.
I'm going to have a think, because removing the inaccurate claims from the online version is nice, although I'm not sure that this goes far enough. It doesn't correct the misconceptions picked up by readers of the original columns, and it doesn't prevent the Mail from repeating them the next time I'm not looking. The one worry would be that the PCC would look at Morgan and Duncan Smith and decide that its place is not to decide on the quality of the evidence, merely whether the Mail had any at all. That would risk giving the Mail a licence to repeat the claims with no come-back from the scientific community, which would not be ideal.