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Rebuttal of "Fact" 21

Page history last edited by Chinagirl 12 years, 3 months ago

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21. Mitchell was appointed the McCanns’ spokesman by former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Mitchell once boasted that as the £75,000-a-year Head of Unit, his job was ‘to control what comes out in the media’. When Mitchell’s post with the McCanns became part-time, he immediately landed a job with Freud Communications, owned and managed by Rupert Murdoch’s son-in-law, Matthew Freud.


Verdict - False - Clarence Mitchell was not appointed to be a spokesperson for the McCanns by Tony Blair; he did not discuss his salary; he did not say his job was to "control" what came out of the media. 

Source - Media articles



Summary of Verifiable Facts

  1. When Madeleine McCann disappeared, Clarence Mitchell was Head of the government's Media Monitoring Unit and working with the Foreign Office's Consular Assistance Group.
  2. Clarence Mitchell was appointed as the McCanns' spokesperson by the Foreign Office, not by Tony Blair (see "Why Clarence Mitchell?" below). 
  3. There is no record of Clarence Mitchell mentioning his salary.  His salary was reported by a newspaper.
  4. The government's Media Monitoring Group do not "control" what comes out of the media, as their name suggests, they "monitor" what comes out of the media for the purposes of analysis (see below).
  5. "Monitor" translates to "controlar" in Portuguese. 
  6. There is no primary source of Clarence Mitchell saying that his job was "to control what came out of the media".  This is almost certainly a simple error of translation from Portuguese into English  (see below).
  7. Clarence Mitchell's subsequent appointment with Freud Communication is irrelevant to the McCann case.




The source for this "fact that the media aren't telling us", is yet again, the media itself.


Interview in Expresso Magazine
The following is an extract from an article which appeared in a Portuguese magazine on29th September, 2007.  It was translated into English by Internet poster "Maya".  There is no online primary source version of this article.


In Portugal there has been a wrong image created about me. I was the Director of the Government's Media Monitoring Unit. Their work, about 40 people, and their function is to control what gets printed in the press. Every morning I had a meeting with the Prime Minister's spokesperson at 10 Downing Street and we discussed any developments. I didn't get to speak to Gordon Brown directly. Everything that I have been able to do for the McCanns has been through my computer and my mobile.


From the Government's Central Office of Information



The Media Monitoring Unit provides 24-hour coverage and in-depth news briefings for press officers, policy officials, special advisers and ministers across all government departments.  Our team of professionals monitor national and international media media outlets including print, terrestrial TV news bulletins, news channels, radio, websites, wire services and a selection of foreign language media.  The information gathered is then analysed, distilled and delivered to our clients in a format that is easy to understand and access - giving them a comprehensive view of how their stories fit into the wider government agenda.


MMU also keeps track of major breaking news, significant developments on running items and provides transcripts of all major broadcast news items. An in-depth knowledge of government enables structured comprehensive reports on relevant issues, while media briefings throughout the day keep clients up to date at all times.



  1. It seems likely that what Mr Mitchell said was "their function is to monitor what gets printed in the press" (an accurate definition of the MMU's purpose). 
  2. The English word "monitor" translates as "controlar" in Portuguese.  Therefore, "their function is to monitor what gets printed in the press" would translate into "a sua função deve controlar o que é impresso na prensa"  When translated back into English it becomes "his function must control what is printed in the press".
  3. There is no government office which "controls" the press.




Clarence Mitchell's Appointment to the McCann Case

It is important to understand why the government was involved in the McCann case.


Clarence Mitchell - Rogatory Statement


I met Gerry at the end of May 2007 when he returned to the UK after his daughter's disappearance. It was a circumstantial meeting at Leicestershire Police station. At the time I was working as part of the Consular Assistance Group, representing the Foreign Office. I was asked to return to Portugal with Mr McCann, where I met his wife. Later I became the McCann family's representative and I developed a good personal and professional relationship with them.


Consular Assistance

Consular assistance is help and advice provided by the diplomatic agents of a country to citizens of that country who are living or traveling overseas. Such assistance may take the form of:


  • advice and support in the case of an accident, serious illness or death
  • advice and support to victims of serious crime overseas, and arranging for next-of-kin to be informed


The Consular Assistance Group comes under the umbrella of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.


Why Clarence Mitchell?

A spokesperson was urgently needed to deal with unprecedented media attention which the McCann case received:-


From the BBC


As the Madeleine McCann story exploded this summer, it became clear that a high level of control and organisation would be needed to cope with the media maelstrom.


From an interview with Clarence Mitchell at the Churches Media Conference on 11th June 2008


As British nationals, in trouble abroad, Kate and Gerry were offered full consular assistance. In this exceptional level of media interest it meant that there had to be an unusual aspect of media handling because there were so many on the ground; they wouldn’t normally send a press officer down but in this case they did. And it became clear, very quickly, that the numbers were so great that extra help was needed from London. And the FCO, through the embassy, was then asked for another press officer to go out and they initially sent out Sheree Dodd - who had to move house that week - and she came back. And because of my active media connections -- and I was working within government at the point -- at that point -- I was asked to basically go out to replace her.


I went out initially for a month - I was told, ‘Oh, this’ll all be over in a fortnight’ and I went out for a month and -- and that was -- that was why I got involved. Now, again, it’s often been said, ‘Oh, why are the McCann’s so special? Why do they need a spokesman?’ I exist because of the media interest. That is the only reason why I did this initially, and it continued the way through the year, as we’ve seen and -- and that’s why I’m still doing it today because the media continue to be interested. It’s not because Kate and Gerry are in any way special, or their case is any more deserving than any other missing child.




From The Guardian


Mr Mitchell announced today that he was stepping down from his role as director of the media monitoring unit at the government's Central Office of Information to help the "innocent victims of a heinous crime".

The unit, which is responsible for providing 24-hour coverage and in-depth news briefings for press officers, policy officials, special advisers and ministers across all government departments, is based in the Cabinet Office in Whitehall.

Mr Mitchell joined the unit in April last year but this summer found himself in Portugal - at the request of the Foreign Office - advising the McCanns for around a month until the end of June.




From a translation of an interview in Expresso Magazine 29th September, 2007 (translated by Internet poster "Maya")

Note: In this quote, Clarence Mitchell also emphasises that he was not appointed by Tony Blair.



Every time that a British subject has problems abroad Consular assistance is offered. As it was regarding a missing child and not the theft of documents, the help provided by the Consul of Portimão was greater. Since the case dominated the media, The Foreign Office, in London, thought of me because I had experience as a reporter and I knew key English people. It wasn't Tony Blair nor the present Prime minister, Gordon Brown, that sent me. I am not their spokesperson nor do I call them asking for advice.




Other Experience

Clarence Mitchell was known to have extensive experience of high profile media stories.  He covered cases such as Fred and Rosemary West, the disappearance of Milly Dowler and the murder of Jill Dando.  It quickly became apparent that someone with considerable experience would be required to handle the unprecedented level of high media interest.



The only part of this "fact" which is true, is irrelevant to the McCann case. 


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