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Jon Ronson's Apology


In the Channel Four documentary "Kidneys for Jesus", Jon Ronson says that in a moment of insanity he agreed to make an apology in the video for his treatment of us in the article he wrote for the Guardian. In the documentary itself, he suggests that he was manipulated into making such an offer, and, presumably, was free to renege on that promise in the final documentary.

So here we will produce extracts from the correspondence that went between the two of us to show just how circumstances developed that led up to Jon's offer to make an apology. And we will state that he continued to let us believe right up to the last day that an apology was going to appear in the documentary.

In the Guardian article, Jon had presented us as being obsessed with publicity, so when he started begging for us to let him do a documentary about us, we were understandably hesitant. On numerous occasions we baulked and refused to go along with his plans.

On April 8, 2002, we wrote the following to Jon:

"We are going to need a long hard think about the whole idea of the documentary before we decide whether to proceed with it.

If we were to return to doing the documentary with you, it would only be on the grounds that YOU be as honest with us as we have tried to be with you.

Have you ever heard of the Golden Rule? It's a fundamental philosophy which led to our reason for donating kidneys in the first place.

But the Golden Rule (treating others as you would want to be treated yourself if you were in the same situation) is also fundamental to a lot of other things in life. If you would make a little effort to put yourself in the shoes of the people you ridicule you might be a little more understanding. If you want people to see goodness in you, then you have to make some effort to see goodness in them.

We both knew that the tabloids were not going to make monsters out of Robin and Casey, but rather, that they would make monsters out of me for supposedly pushing Robin and Casey into doing something that they should not do. But the tabloids would do it without knowing that Robin and Casey had been approved by their parents and approved by a panel of psychiatrists and doctors. You KNEW those things, and still you made it look like Robin and Casey were stupid puppets, brainwashed and controlled by me. Graham Baldwin could not have done it much better.

No, I wasn't asking you to make me a saint. You apparently have some ethical problems with that. But you didn't mind making Casey a saint if you could do so in such a way as to make me the monster who mutilated him.

Anyway, enough of that. If we do decide to go ahead with the TV documentary, we will ask that YOU be honest."

Jon replied that same day, saying:

"My general resonse to your email: Okay. That is fair. Total honesty from now on. I take your criticisms and am willing to understand more. (On a side issue, I will try and redress the Bobby Kelly issue in the documentary). I will sincerely attempt to make the film as empathetic and understanding as I can - and try harder to put myself into your shoes. I really will try. I think that is a fair criticism and as a journalist who cares about his work I will really try and do that.

You obviously do feel deceived, in part, and I must take some responsibility for that. So from now on, as I say, total honesty from me. I don't see you as the "fall guy", but if that is how things turn out, then yes I will make you a likeable fall guy!"

The next day, Jon clarified the last sentence above, when he wrote:

" I promise I'm not anticipating making you a fall guy, likeable or otherwise."

On April 15, Jon wrote:

"You felt, I think fairly, that I didn't point out that Casey's regrets were due to post-operative pain, and that they were temporary in a way that "women giving birth have regrets about getting pregnant at that moment! I think this is a fair criticism. If I'm planning to put something like that into the film, I WILL discuss it with you and get your response - your right to reply - and put that into the film too. That's fair and I promise to do that."

Of course he did not. He never once told us that he was going to report that he had had a change of mind about us and about his apology. In fact, he never even told us that he had had a change of mind. These assurances of a nice report continued right up to the day before the broadcast, although there were plenty of clues that he was up to more of his old tricks.

Jon flew Cherry and Dave to London, supposedly to interview them with regard to the group's beliefs and to arrange some kind of a showdown with the cult-busters or any religious leaders he wanted to ask, as to why there is so much opposition to the Jesus Christians in England. We were assured that it would force our critics to dig deeper than emotional innuendo and either put up or shut up.

It appears that they shut up, because a show-down with our critics never eventuated. Instead, Jon had secretly decided to just add to the innuendo with some of his own irrational emotionalism. The trip to London was largely a waste of time.

Nevertheless, there were plenty of clues that Jon was working on a documentary that would be critical of us. Dave wrote to Jon on April 16, calling off further filiming, until there was some indication of what the arguments were, if any, that he was going to use against the Jesus Christians.

Dave wrote: "You've had several months now. I think it is time for you to sit down and go over with us exactly what your criticisms are We need to call a halt to the filming until you have properly researched your story I think it's time for you to interview Baldwin and company, and then we can take it from there."

Jon replied that same day: "Now it's all over I can say in all honesty that I never had any intention of doing bad by you. Never. It would have been a very positive documentary I would have been very happy to discuss everything with you when the film was finished - show you the film, get your right to reply, etc. All this stuff was academic to me because I never had any intention of making a negative film about you."

Later that same day, he became a bit more desperate, and wrote: "I don't have the slightest intention of making a negative film about you. How about I go to Channel 4 and draw up some kind of legally binding agreement between us, something watertight. What would you like in this agreement? You are coming from the perspective that i am going to stitch you up, rather than make a humane and positive film about you, which is my intention."

Then, in his fourth email sent that day, titled "one last email", Jon writes: "I take full responsibility for this breakdown of trust."

We questioned whether there had really been a change of heart on Jon's part, and he wrote, on April 20: " I have very warm feelings towards you and the Jesus Christians. I think that the kidney donating is a brave and extraordinarily Christian thing to do. I feel - as you know - that you were demonised beyond all reason by the Bobby Kelly incident, as I wrote in the Evening Standard at the time, and also in the Guardian (you saw the Graham Baldwin paragraphs). And I don't believe for a moment that you are not leading by example - the interviews we did with you in London prove it. I also accept that Casey is very happy with his decision - and his "regret" came just from post operative pain.and was temporary - and I apologise for the inference that he wasn't. So yes, I have had a change of heart."

This was the start of a move toward an official apology from Jon.

On April 27, Jon sent a proposal for a contract from Channel Four which said:

"At least half of the Programme will deal with the JCs' beliefs, including investigation into the claims made by various people in connection with Bobby Kelly, during 2000.

The JCs will be informed of any allegations made against them which are likely to be included in the film, and any substantive personal criticisms which the producer has of the JCs themselves, and they will be given the opportunity to respond to those allegations or criticisms, i.e. there will be no criticisms of the group or any of its members in the final cut which have not been thoroughly discussed beforehand. (No "surprises"). Any responses on behalf of the JCs will, insofar as is reasonable and appropriate, be included in the body of the programme.

The programme will feature the scope of the JC's work - including references to their website.

Failure by the producers to comply with these conditions will render them ineligible to use any footage taken of the JCs, either in this documentary or in any other production."

And when we still had not given in, Jon wrote to us on May 1, 2002:
"I was going to make the promise that if I am clearly wrong about the criticisms I made in the article then I was not only going to admit it in the documentary, not only set the matter straight, I was going to make an apology in the film. What do you think?"

He said it again the next day, May 2:
"I am more than willing to apologise in the film. I am happy to make myself the fall guy, to make myself look prejudiced, if I had any ill feeling towards your motivations which turned out to be prejudicial and untrue."
We asked that he be more specific about what he was going to apologise for.

On May 3, he wrote this:
"There are some things in the article I am truly sorry for. I should never have said that you sent me 60 emails, whilst leaving out the fact that I sent you 60 back and was constantly asking you to answer my questions. That was facile of me. I'm really sorry. I just didn't think that line through.

"Had I known how strongly Casey would feel about me writing that he had regrets after the operation I would have explained that his regrets were a result of post-operative pain, and he is well over them now. This is why it is so important that should we continue together I make full disclosures in advance of any doubts or criticisms I may have and get the JC's responses and put them into the film.

You know that I tried to put the whole Bobby Kelly story into the article - I sent you the paragraphs that were cut by the lawyers - and I fully intend to delve deeply into this in the documentary. You have my promise on that,

Yes, your beliefs are complex. Yes, I immaturely failed to grasp them properly.

I think I did overweigh it with stuff about the publicity."

This is the promised apology that never appeared in the "Kidneys for Jesus" documentary. Instead, Jon convinced himself that he could plead insanity, and then revert to restating and even highlighting the very same criticisms he had made in the Guardian article, in the documentary.

When we showed some interest in resuming filming, on the understanding that Jon would make an apology in the documentary, he started backpedalling on the terms of the so-called ironclad contract, saying that there were some terms that the TV station would not agree to.

On May 15, he wrote: "There are clauses in it which the channel would not agree to. Maybe I should go down the full apology route? Would you like me to draft one?"

On May 16, he wrote:
"I am serious about making an apology - the wording to be mutually agreed in advance - in the documentary. "

But he wanted us to tell him what he should be sorry for. We complained that a real apology is not dictated by someone else. Nevertheless, we sent a 42K email detailing some of the things that WE were upset about!"

That same day, he replied to Dave, saying,
"Perhaps you or someone from the JC's should explain on camera exactly why the article was so offensive. I can absolutely guarantee you that air-space. I see that I was adding sarcastic humour because I was worried that without it the readers wouldn't be interested. That is a very unbecoming trait of mine, and I have learnt from it, now you have pointed it out to me. Sarcasm is a rude and unpleasent character trait, and so is the neurotic feeling that I needed to add some doses of it to keep people reading. This may not sound like a proper apology to you but it does come from the heart."

Of course, neither that apology or any other appeared in the documentary. He did quite the opposite. He said that he had learned to dislike us with such an irrational passion that, he was prepared to accept anything anyone said against us, even to the point of us being able to suck the brains out of people.

Nice apology, eh?


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