Newspaper editor sacked for publishing fake anti-trans letter

Former editor of The Examiner, Mark Westfield

An Australian newspaper has sacked its editor after he published a fake letter which claimed trans people posed an “inherent danger”.

Launceston newspaper The Examiner appointed its editor Mark Westfield in January 2023. Less than three months later he was axed from his role for the publication of a vile transphobic letter. 

Under the headline “Girls getting changed, then in walks a man” the letter claimed that a “man” undressed in front of children in the female changing rooms at the Launceston Leisure and Aquatic Centre. 

The letter, which was published under the “letter to the editor” section, amplified anti-trans rhetoric that spreads misinformation about trans people using changing rooms and bathrooms that conform with their gender. 

Shortly after the letter was printed the aquatic centre and City of Launceston questioned its accuracy and confirmed that no such incident had occurred, the Star Observer reported

Mayor Danny Gibson said: “Disappointingly, the newspaper made no attempt to check the veracity of the letter with the council.”

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The newspaper was forced to apologise and retract the letter.

But Westfield did attempt to defend his actions and said the newspaper had been “misled”. 

He claimed that after inquiries with the letter writer there were “concerns that the letter contained incorrect information.”

Westfield told ABC he took full responsibility for the publication of the letter and lack of due diligence. 

He said: “This person who claimed to have walked in was clearly a trans person. This person claimed to be upset about it… I spoke to the writer.

“I think she made it up. She wasn’t very convincing. I asked her what happened, to give me some detail, a time, date, but she wouldn’t.” 

Despite the letter being retracted by the time it had been published it had been shared across social media by anti-trans groups. 

‘The letter has caused a lot of hurt’

LGBTQI advocacy group, Equality Tasmania, applauded Westfield’s exit from the newspaper, but said more needs to be done by the publication. 

Rose Boccalatte,  spokesperson for the group, said: “The impact of the letter on trans and gender diverse communities hasn’t been acknowledged. 

“The letter has caused a lot of hurt because it insinuated there is an inherent danger with trans women using women’s facilities and because it was fabricated. 

“What we’d really like to see from The Examiner is an acknowledgement of the hurt caused by the letter.” 

Prior to his stint as the editor of The Examiner, Westfield was the campaign manager and media advertiser to failed Warringah Liberal candidate Katherine Deves, who was forced to delete and apologise for her anti-LGBTQI posts before the federal elections. 

PinkNews has contacted The Examiner for comment.