The Islamophobic media personality Katie Hopkins has apologised to a Muslim family she accused of being extremists after they were refused entry to the US for a Disneyland trip.
Mail Online, which published her claim, also paid £150,000 in libel damages to the Mahmood family.
Hopkins wrongly said the family had links to al-Qaeda in two articles published in December 2015.
The family of 11 had planned to holiday to Disneyland on 15 December 2015 but were stopped by US authorities at Gatwick Airport.
Hopkins’s article from 23 December said “you can’t blame America for not letting this lot travel to Disneyland – I wouldn’t either.”
However, today’s apology read: “An article published in Katie Hopkins’ column on 23 December 2015 (‘Just because Britain’s border security is a Mickey Mouse operation you can’t blame America for not letting this lot travel to Disneyland – I wouldn’t either’) suggested that Mohammed Tariq Mahmood and his brother, Mohammed Zahid Mahmood, are extremists with links to Al Qaeda; that their purported reason for visiting the USA – namely to visit Disneyland – was a lie; and that US Homeland Security were right to prevent them from boarding their flight.
“We are happy to make clear that Tariq Mahmood and Zahid Mahmood are not extremists, nor do they have links to Al Qaeda. They were travelling to the USA with their families to see one of their brothers for a holiday in California and they had indeed planned to visit Disneyland as part of their trip.
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“In addition a further article in Katie’s column on 29 December (‘A brave Muslim tried to warn us their week about the extremists taking over his community. What a tragedy it is that our PC politicians would rather not know’) suggested that Hamza Mahmood (Mohammed Tariq Mahmood’s son) was responsible for a Facebook page which allegedly contained extremist material.
“Our article included a photo of the family home. Hamza Mahmood has pointed out that he is not responsible for the Facebook page, which was linked to him as a result of an error involving his email address. We are happy to make clear that there is no suggestion that either Hamza nor Taeeba or Hafsa Mahmood (Hamza’s mother and sister) have any links to extremism.
“We and Katie Hopkins apologise to the Mahmood family for the distress and embarrassment caused and have agreed to pay them substantial damages and their legal costs.”
“Stress and anxiety”
Mail Online has now removed the story from its website but Stella Creasy MP, who represents the family’s Walthamstow constituency, accused Hopkins of “tucking away” her apology, which she published on Twitter at 02:00 GMT.
The family said the articles “caused us all a great deal of stress and anxiety” but that it was “very pleased” with the apology and payment.
“After a great deal of dragging of their heels, the Mail and Ms Hopkins have now accepted that what they published was completely false,” it said in a statement.
Hopkins, who joined the Mail Online in November last year, is known for airing controversial views, having compared migrants to “cockroaches” while a writer at the Sun.
Tariq and Zahid Mahmood said: “Even to this day the US authorities have not explained the reason why we were not permitted to travel. We assume it was an error or even a case of mistaken identity.
“However, matters are not helped when such sensationalist and, frankly, Islamophobic articles such as this are published, and which caused us all a great deal of distress and anxiety. We are very pleased that the record has been set straight.”