NZ Herald journalist Fran O'Sullivan sorry for calling COVID-19 expert Shaun Hendy a 'bogus' modeller in accidental tweet

  • 27/09/2021

A NZ Herald journalist has apologised for a tweet in which she called a prominent COVID-19 researcher a "bogus" modeller, saying it was meant to be sent to someone else via a private message.

The apology came after Shaun Hendy, a disease modelling expert from the University of Auckland, asked for an explanation after seeing a screenshot of the tweet. 

NZ Herald head of business Fran O'Sullivan deleted her accidental tweet shortly after it was posted in the weekend.

She said the post was intended to be sent via private message to Rodney Jones, another modeller. Jones last week described modelling by Hendy, which suggested 7000 Kiwis could die a year if New Zealand's vaccination rollout stalled at 80 percent, as "rushed" and "overcooked".

"Thanks for your well-timed article," O'Sullivan said. "The inexplicable refusal to apply math to decision-making and rely on bogus modellers like Hendy is extraordinary."

O'Sullivan has since written an apology to Hendy, which she also shared on Twitter.

"Please accept my personal apology to you for the publication on Twitter of what was intended as a direct private message this morning," O'Sullivan said.

"In explanation, the message was intended for Rodney Jones with whom I had been discussing yesterday the contentious nature of modelling as it relates to COVID. We often debate issues in a quite robust and quite personal manner.

"I was surprised the message did not appear in my message queue and even more so that it ended up on Twitter itself. I also asked for the person who initially republished the tweet to delete it, as I was in the process of deleting the original. I am sorry that they did not do that.

"And I regret the use of the word bogus to describe you - even if what was intended to be in private. This is clearly not the case.

"Again, please accept my apology."

Hendy on Twitter confirmed he had received O'Sullivan's apology via email. It comes after he was accused of "fear-mongering" for his projection released last week - which showed how many Kiwis might end up in hospital or dead from the Delta variant of COVID-19 at different levels of vaccination coverage.

"This new report actually offers a way forward but it is going to take more work than perhaps many had bargained for," he said of his research. "It's OK to feel angry about that (perhaps just not take it out on my inbox). It is also fine to remain optimistic that new data will change these conclusions."