Nick Cohen suspension blamed on trans people by The Telegraph

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In a piece written for The Telegraph by Ben Woods it is claimed that Nick Cohen has been suspended from The Observer following a trans rights row. Whereas this is chronologically correct, it isn’t really the whole story.

Nick Cohen is flatteringly described as a “star columnist” by The Telegraph during this report on his suspension. Headlined; “Star Observer columnist suspended after trans rights row”, the only lie here is one of ommission – but its a pretty important thing not to have mentioned.

The article talks about “allegations by women” – but doesn’t really go into the nature of those allegations at all. It’s far more concerned with suggesting Nick Cohen is being stitched up by Jolyon Maugham of The Good Law Project. Citing Tweets by Mr Maugham asking for people to come forward with information about Nick Cohen.

Apparently Jolyon Maugham sought these allegations from women about Nick Cohen due to a Guardian piece which talks about how institutions protect their senior staff at the expense of their junior staff. An irony so palpable it threatens to collapse in on itself and take the whole of Earth with it into the singularity.

In the Guardian piece Nick Cohen vaguely gestures support for some people involved with the anti-trans moral panic, such as JK Rowling. Whilst also helping to spread anti-trans propaganda such as the idea that “male puberty confers natural advantages forever” over cis women in sports.

That’s about as involved as trans people get in this whole “trans row” – two wealthy cis people talking passed each other about us – its not very much. Certainly not headline worthy.

In more recent tweets by Mr Maugham he alleges that multiple women who have worked with or around Nick Cohen have come forwards to allege various sexual misconduct. Including saying that he has received some relatively recent screenshots which show Nick Cohen offering to go to the toilet at the Observer newsroom, strip off, take a naked selfie and send it to a junior freelancer.

It’s probably this that has led to his suspension from the Observer pending investigation, not trans people? Maybe?

Other notable people have come forwards to share similar allegations too. Dr Deepti Gurdasani is a clinical epidemiologist. Her tweets prompted the thread by Mr Maugham. She sent the following to Nick Cohen on Twitter; I wouldn’t be calling anyone else ‘sexually incontinent’ if I were you- given the number of women who’ve come forward with allegations about sexual misconduct when you were in positions of power relative to them.

To its credit, the article does continue and mentions the wider thing Jolyon Maugham was tweeting about. It wasn’t just about Nick Cohen allegedly being a sex pest, but rather about Guardian News Media’s crap approach to complaints. This is elaborated on further in Maugham’s thread which includes the claim that one of the women who reported being groped by Nick Cohen to a senior executive. She says did not pursue a formal complaint due to a hostile and discouraging reaction from said senior executive.

It fails to mention that trans people have been some of the most prominent voices in complaining about The Guardian & Observer’s internal problems. Multiple transgender Guardian staff have walked out or otherwise felt pushed out of the organisation, at one point over 300 members of staff signed an open letter to call for better from the news giant.

It also fails to mention the words “sexual assault” at all, even as an allegation. For example the article references Lucy Siegle, a freelance journalist and BBC One Show presenter. The Telegraph piece says she had an “encounter with Nick Cohen” in 2001. Which just makes him sound more like a predator – ie “an encounter with a wild animal”. But still obfuscates it enough that some people might not know this “encounter” is an alleged sexual assault.

Writing to Twitter Lucy Siegle says that Nick Cohen groped her at the photocopier when she was in her 20s and an admin assistant. She says he’s a total creep and has avoided going anywhere near him ever since, or even reading any of his work.

This hatchet job of an article by The Telegraph chooses not to mention any of this because its inconvenient for the culture war narrative they – and others – have helped fight so hard to create. Jolyon Maugham of The Good Law Project isn’t pursuing these reports of sexual misconduct against Nick Cohen because sexual misconduct is bad, no, he’s doing it because of trans people!

But this one isn’t about us, this one’s about the women who Nick Cohen has allegedly sexually assaulted and harassed. This one’s about finding justice for those people who say they fear speaking out about their experiences because it could harm their careers and personal lives.

Focus up, Ben.

Gemma Stone
Gemma Stone is a transgender writer who has been covering the rise of transphobic hate campaigning in the UK. She has written hundreds of articles dissecting aspects of transphobia including debunking blatant disinformation. She is very tired and trying her best, and hopefully having a positive impact on such a beautiful community.

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