‘TELEGRAPH to suspend cartoonist Bob Moran over Twitter posts targeting NHS doctor’ ran the Press Gazette headline. The journalists’ trade paper went on to explain how an ill-advised tweet had encouraged Moran’s Twitter followers to abuse verbally an Oxford-based palliative care doctor.
Dr Rachel Clarke had tweeted last month about wearing masks on public transport to stop the spread of Covid-19. Moran responded angrily: ‘She deserves to be verbally abused in public for the rest of her worthless existence. They all do.’
It was harsh, and violated the social media giant’s guidelines (although when someone called former Tottenham midfielder Jermaine Jenas a half-caste c***, Instagram, the most officious social media platform, said it probably didn’t violate theirs). Twitter removed the offensive post, and Telegraph executives hauled Moran into the office after Dr Clarke, who has 217k followers and tweets as @doctor_oxford, retaliated: ‘Why do you employ a man who openly abuses NHS staff, @telegraph?’
Telegraph executives asked themselves the same question. In less woke times, Moran would have been asked to apologise, received an official warning and everyone would have moved on. Instead, they suspended the young cartoonist. Many applauded the move but others, aware of Moran’s personal story, were horrified. Though they did not condone his action, they were angry that Dr Clarke, who clearly wanted the moral high ground, had reported Moran to the police, threatened to sue him for defamation and asked her Twitter followers to crowdfund the action.
It is always so important to know the facts. On the surface, Moran’s tweet was unwarranted, but what most don’t know is the years of pent-up frustration that spilled over into that life-changing, 80-character rant. In a heartfelt pinned tweet apology, published to @bobscartoons 42k Twitter followers on Thursday, he admitted he had made a mistake but felt it important to explain what for him had been the final straw.
In the tweet, headed ‘An apology to @doctor_oxford’, he wrote: ‘I regret any distress caused by my comments directed at Dr Rachel Clarke, posted on September 28 2021. It was a mistake to send a tweet suggesting that she deserved verbal abuse and I’m sorry if she received any as a result.
‘I want to make it clear that I did not target Dr Clarke in my capacity as a journalist or an employee of Telegraph Media Group. I targeted her in my capacity as a desperate and angry father of a disabled child.
‘My eight-year-old daughter has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. She has many complex needs which require input from a range of therapists and healthcare workers. She has severe learning difficulties and is very far behind academically. Life before 2020 was already extremely difficult for us as a family. Lockdown, and the other measures implemented to try to control a virus which poses no threat to children, have been devastating.
‘My daughter did not see a physiotherapist, a paediatric consultant, an epilepsy consultant, an occupational therapist, an orthopaedic surgeon, an optician or a GP for the best part of two years. She was denied the right to attend school for almost an entire year. She has had to contend with people interacting with her while wearing masks, visors and rubber gloves. None of which she understands and all of which create additional problems for a child with visual impairment and speech delay. She was deprived of health benefits and pure joy normally afforded by her weekly sessions of hydrotherapy and riding for the disabled. Her mobility declined. Her mental health suffered terribly. Her seizures got to the point where they lasted so long that she was turning blue and choking to death. We have almost lost her several times.
‘This is what the “public health policies” implemented by government and promoted by high-profile figures like Dr Clarke have meant for my family and many others like us. Children have died as a result of lockdowns in the UK and around the world. This is an undeniable fact and one which I find sickeningly immoral. This is why I am angry. This is why I am unequivocally opposed to all of these damaging, immoral measures and want to ensure they can never happen again.
‘I do not have a personal vendetta against all doctors and healthcare professionals. Medical clinicians are a vital and valued part of our society. My issue is with those doctors who have chosen to disregard the central pledge of the Hippocratic oath: “First do no harm.”
‘Eight years ago, I took my wife to hospital after she had been having contractions for five days without progression. I knew that something was very wrong. But I trusted the health service. I respected the nurses and midwives on that almost empty ward when they told me everything would be fine. When I asked repeatedly to see a doctor, I accepted their assertion that there was no need. I didn’t want to make a fuss. I failed to act. As a result, my baby girl was born dead and, having been resuscitated, spent two weeks in intensive care fighting for her life. As she lay in that plastic box, covered in tubes and surrounded by monitors, I held her tiny hand and I made her a promise. I promised her that I would never fail her again. That when her life was under threat, from whatever forces, I would stand up and fight for her without fear or hesitation. Whatever it took. Whatever the cost to me.
‘I may have gone too far in this instance. I may have violated Twitter’s terms. I may have broken the rules of civilised debate. But I have not broken my promise to my little girl. And I will not.’
Moran knew Dr Clarke was not responsible for the appalling suffering his family have endured, but what doctors who choose to make themselves visible must realise is that thousands of families, and mainly families most in need, have suffered unimaginable hardship while doctors such as Clarke, a best-selling author, who are quite comfortable thank you, have been promoting the very tools causing so much distress like mask wearing.
Our government have been dismantling all we hold dear so that now our local café is facing bankruptcy, or our favourite pub has been driven to its knees, and a simple pleasure like riding for the disabled has stalled; devastated for an illness with a 99.7 per cent recovery rate. The surprise is that more families have not reacted and expressed their anger and distress, but the facts are, they are too depressed, subjugated, and desperate to cry out.