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A Fact-based Note on The New York Post's Misreporting

Sep 10 2021

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Hillsong Church has always been unwavering in our support of a fair and free press, believing that it is critical to public accountability and the dissemination of truth. Because of our stance on this, Hillsong Church has been deeply disappointed by The New York Post’s pattern of unethical journalism and ongoing misreporting about our church, ministries and employees.

Hillsong Church has repeatedly been forced to contact the Post and their legal counsel to alert them of their errors. We have provided documentation of false reporting on several occasions and have cited their failures to comply with established and accepted principles of journalistic ethics.

In every case, the Post has responded by quietly altering the content of their articles without communicating these changes to their readers, and once, even wiping a story off the internet completely, leaving behind only a dead link to bear testament to their mistakes.

We realize that the New York Post is officially designated as a “tabloid newspaper” and has historically been known for sensationalism, celebrity gossip and digital “clickbait.” Though they may not generally be expected to adhere to the higher standards of their more reputable competitors, even a tabloid like the Post is not exempt from basic standards of journalistic ethics or allowed to publish easily verifiable falsehoods.

Recent examples of egregious disregard of the truth:

  • In February of this year, the New York Post published an article that claimed Hillsong’s senior global pastor Brian Houston was “phasing out” of his role and assuming a “support role” in our church.

The Post’s claim was clearly a lie, and information within the Post’s article even directly contradicted their claim. As the article noted, Pastor Brian stated he was “not retiring” and “not going anywhere.” Further, a Hillsong spokesperson explained to the Post that Pastors Brian and Bobbie “are not stepping away from their primary duties” but rather were taking on additional responsibilities for mentoring young leaders.

Apparently, the New York Post can’t afford to let the facts get in the way of a juicy story.

  • Last April, the New York Post published another article claiming that a “former Hillsong [Church] pastor and band member” had faked a cancer diagnosis, covered up his porn addiction, and is now launching a new ministry. The sensational storyline rapidly spread across social media, but it was a verifiable lie. Even a junior-level reporter with a cursory interest in accuracy could have verified that the man in question never served as a pastor at our church nor was a member of Hillsong United.

Our team immediately reached out to the Post and alerted them to the error, asking them to issue a correction. The editor initially denied our claim via email because the misinformation “has been widely reported in several outlets” as well. In other words, it’s okay to lie so long as you aren’t the only one doing so.

We pressed our point, documenting that the claims were verifiably false. Some two days later, the editor quietly wiped the article off the internet. leaving behind nothing but a dead link. The publication did not admit their error, and they refused to provide an explanation or clarification of any kind to the countless Post readers who consumed and shared the misinformation.

  • This month, the New York Post again published falsehoods in an article about Tolu Badders, the COO of Hillsong NY, claiming that she “has listed her Upper West Side one-bedroom” for sale. In fact, Ms. Badders does not own the one-bedroom apartment mentioned and has never owned that one-bedroom apartment. This article also misrepresented two other key staff members in similar fashion, and those discrepancies have yet to be rectified.

Our team reached out to the Post to provide documentation proving the unit in question is a rent-stabilized rental apartment, which she and her family have occupied as a tenant for twelve years. Accordingly, since Tolu is not the owner of the apartment and has never been the owner of the apartment, she cannot “list” it for sale.

The article compounds this false statement by claiming that its reporting is made “according to property records.” There is no citation provided for this assertion, of course, because no property records exist that support it.

In response to our documentation verifying the Post’s misreporting, the article was quietly “updated.” The article’s manufactured narrative remains online despite their embarrassing mistakes.

These are just a few examples of the Post’s relentless and deceptive campaign to attack Hillsong Church. In the spirit of transparency, we are making the public aware of these facts so that they are better equipped to evaluate the lies that are being sold to them as “truth.”

To be clear, while the Post has perhaps behaved the most egregiously and unethically, other publications including Vanity Fair and Business Insider have too. As have international tabloids such as the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail(UK), the latter of which sent a reporter to stalk a Hillsong pastor at her home and would not leave even after repeated requests.

In a moment when public confidence and trust in the media has reached historic lows, we urge the New York Post and all news outlets to recommit themselves to principles of ethics and fairness.