The truth at the end of the story

August 19th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar
  1. The Herald spends ten paragraphs on a story that claims purchase cards exclude tampons as a non essential expense. The first 10 paras are:

A financially strapped job seeker says she was told by Auckland Work and Income staff she could not use a supermarket card for tampons or sanitary pads because they were considered luxury items.

The Ministry of Social Development has said the only items that cannot be bought on payment cards are electronics, appliances, alcohol and cigarettes.

The allegation has ignited a storm on social after blogger Tulia Thompson wrote about it and described it as “institutionalised sexism”.

Ms Thompson said the incident happened about six weeks ago at the Queen Street Winz office.

The woman was provided with a supermarket card and told it was for “necessity items only” and she could not use it for various “luxury items” including tampons and pads, she said.

“Supermarket cards are only given out when the beneficiary is in serious financial hardship. Nevertheless, the exclusion of tampons and pads from the list of ‘necessity items’ that beneficiaries can buy when in financial hardship is a fairly extreme example of institutionalised sexism,” she said.

Ms Thompson said another woman tried to use a Winz supermarket card at the check-out at her local supermarket, and the card didn’t work.

“The cashier called Winz to find out why the card wouldn’t work, and found out it was because she had tampons amongst the items she was purchasing. She had to return them.”

Ms Thompson said another woman had contacted her in response to the blog to say the same thing had happened to her at a supermarket and the reason her card was rejected was because her sanitary item had been incorrectly labelled in the supermarket system to “pull-ups”.

Ms Thompson said clearly there needed to be better communication between supermarkets and Winz to ensure women were not embarrassed at the check-out counter.

Only if you make it all the way past 10 paragraphs of allegations, do you get the response:

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Social Development said any claims that female hygiene products could not be purchased using the Work and Income payment card were “totally untrue“.

Individual items are not tagged on payment cards. If someone’s card doesn’t work, it would be for a system reason and not because of what the person bought.

“The only items banned from purchase on the payment cards are electronics, appliances, alcohol and cigarettes.”

So the entire story is based on a false allegation. I would have thought you either then don’t run a story, or you make it very clear at the beginning of the story that it is a false allegation. The mention in paragraph two doesn’t actually refute the story to the degree that paragraph 11 does.

The story headline is:

Tampons a ‘luxury item’ – Work and Income staff

That makes it look like a direct quote from a WINZ staffer, when in fact it is an third hand allegation.

Just for good measure, the story includes half a dozen outraged tweets from people, based on the false allegation.

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47 Responses to “The truth at the end of the story”

  1. Peter (1,713 comments) says:

    I haven’t paid for infotainment for years. These days, I barely even pay attention to it.

    The MSM ate itself.

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  2. alex Masterley (1,517 comments) says:

    What else do you expect from the Horrid.

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  3. Tristan (63 comments) says:

    oh right it must be a lie because a spokesperson said so…

    wow new levels even for you!

    Look I don’t think WINZ have purposely barred products I blame an IT fuck up somewhere along the lines but just because a spokesperson says something doesn’t make it true. We are not in Eurasia just yet

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  4. MT_Tinman (3,204 comments) says:

    They have a credit card for charity?

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  5. nickb (3,687 comments) says:

    Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt, Tristy buddy

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  6. PaulL (5,987 comments) says:

    I thought these cards were a pretty stupid idea, and this is one of the reasons. It gives ways for people to complain.

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  7. BeaB (2,125 comments) says:

    But this is our ethical media, holding government to account!

    Like their fatuous comments even from writers like Audrey Young that the PM ‘finally’ fronted over the GCSB when all we ever heard or saw about the select committee he chaired (surely a historic moment) was that horrible German fatty arriving in his helicopter and his hat blowing off. All we ever get are the sideshows.

    Perhaps one day a newspaper will actually work out why we are no longer buying them. I get so tired of having to read between the lines to try to work out what actually did happen in their garbled, misleading and badly written stories.

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  8. shoreboy57 (140 comments) says:

    Shane Currie inventing the news again?

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  9. Right of way is Way of Right (1,122 comments) says:

    So, reading the article fully, it seems that this is at least partly due to the supermarket incorrectly labeling tampons as a ‘pull-up’ item. That being the case, why is the Herald not pointing the finger squarely at the supermarket concerned?

    Because blaming Paula Bennett sells newspapers apparently. One problem with that approach, bullshit and poor reporting don’t sell newspapers!

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  10. queenstfarmer (782 comments) says:

    The Herald is fast losing what little credibility it still has.

    Here’s my turn at Herald-writing:

    NZ Herald articles are “made up, full of shit” – Herald editor

    A reader says he was told by the editor of the NZ Herald that their stories are “made up” and “full of shit”.

    [10 paragraphs later....
    ...
    ...
    ...
    ...]

    A spokesman for the NZ Herald says the claim is untrue.

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  11. PaulL (5,987 comments) says:

    And why would a pull-up fit into the category of “electronics, cigarettes or alcohol”? I thought they were a type of nappy – surely nappies are also essentials?

    I think the answer is that there was never actually a problem that related to the tampons at all – there may have been a system issue of some sort, but I haven’t seen any evidence that it relates to the tampons other than that some people think it might have.

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  12. Simon (727 comments) says:

    The Herald is always on the rag.

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  13. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,903 comments) says:

    The Herald eh? No longer good enough even to use as a sanitary pad.

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  14. SW (240 comments) says:

    DPF: With due respect, are you missing the point of this story?

    Isn’t the story an allegation that a WINZ front line staff member got it wrong?

    The story outlines that it is not WINZ policy to consider sanitary pads or tampons as luxury items. Nonetheless, a beneficiary has been told that by a WINZ office worker. This is backed by another beneficiary, who has claimed her card wouldn’t work at the supermarket because she had tampons amongst the items she was purchasing.

    The only way this story is a false allegation is if these women are lying. But you appear to be alleging that the story is false simply because it is not WINZ policy. Isn’t this news worthy because it isn’t WINZ policy, yet WINZ office workers are telling women that sanitary pads are a luxury item? Or am I missing something?

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  15. Peter (1,713 comments) says:

    A purchase of The Horrid was recorded in the supermarket system under the category “toilet paper”. A spokesman for the supermarket said this was a “system error”. Many readers doubted this claim, however.

    I may have just made that up…..

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  16. flipper (4,083 comments) says:

    SW….
    Are you really as thick as two short planks, or do you just to be?

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  17. SW (240 comments) says:

    Hi Flipper, perhaps I am!

    But isn’t the story essentially “benificiary told by WINZ staff that sanitary pads are luxury item and not to be paid for on payment card”. If the benificiary is lying, then I agree that the story is based on a false accusation. But the fact it isn’t actually WINZ policy doesn’t make the story false.

    The obvious question is, if the accusation is true, why on earth are WINZ workers telling women that sanitary pads are luxury items not to be bought on payment cards when this in fact is not WINZ policy?

    Like I said Flipper, if I’m missing something I would grateful if it could be pointed out.

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  18. Steve Wrathall (284 comments) says:

    Tulia Thompson, a “children’s author” who blogged when Maggie Thatcher died: “I would leave convolvulus and sticky weed on your grave”.
    http://tuliathompson.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/poem-an-obituary-for-maggie-thatcher/
    Obviously her fiction has won a few juvenile fans today.

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  19. reversespin (69 comments) says:

    And that is why no one buys the Herald anymore……….and why no one would pay for its content online.

    The annoying thing is that APN don’t see the cause and effect. Shoddy Journalism = declining revenue. On the contrary, they seem to think declining revenue = we need to tabloid this up!!

    Idiots.

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  20. Harriet (4,975 comments) says:

    When it comes to arrogance, power and lack of accountability, journalists are the only people on the planet who make lawyers look good. :cool:

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  21. SW (240 comments) says:

    I don’t disagree with you Harriet. but what exactly is wrong with this story? I assume you think it is appropriate for WINZ workers to not follow WINZ policy? Or is it that you think the women in the story are probably just making it up, and on that basis it shouldn’t have been printed?

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  22. Dazzaman (1,140 comments) says:

    WINZ workers are probably like cops…..they just make it up to satiate their power trips.

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  23. Monique Angel (291 comments) says:

    Why take the victimhood approach SW? If a silly cunt like the winz guy were to give me shit then I would hand him his arse on a platter. I don’t imagine myself important enough that my shopping experience would have a bearing on NZ politics.

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  24. Right of way is Way of Right (1,122 comments) says:

    I thought I could have a go at rewriting this story the way a sensible journalist may have written it. It goes a little something like this.

    A beneficiary has alleged that she was told by Auckland Work and Income staff that she could not use a supermarket card for tampons or sanitary pads because they were considered luxury items.

    A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Social Development said any claims that female hygiene products could not be purchased using the Work and Income payment card were “totally untrue“.

    “Individual items are not tagged on payment cards. If someone’s card doesn’t work, it would be for a system reason and not because of what the person bought.

    “The only items banned from purchase on the payment cards are electronics, appliances, alcohol and cigarettes.”

    The allegation has ignited a storm on social media after blogger Tulia Thompson decided that she did not need to investigate this allegation, or confirm the details with the Ministry of Social development, or WINZ, but just to blog about it and describe it as “institutionalised sexism”.

    Ms Thompson said the alleged incident may have happened about six weeks ago at the Queen Street Winz office, but she could not confirm this.

    The woman was provided with a supermarket card and told it was for “necessity items only” and she could not use it for various “luxury items” she said. She could not confirm if the WINZ staffer specifically mentioned tampons and sanitary products.

    “Supermarket cards are only given out when the beneficiary is in serious financial hardship. Nevertheless, the exclusion of tampons and pads from the list of ‘necessity items’ that beneficiaries can buy when in financial hardship is a fairly extreme example of institutionalised sexism,” she said.

    Ms Thompson said another woman tried to use a Winz supermarket card at the check-out at her local supermarket, and the card didn’t work.

    “The cashier called Winz to find out why the card wouldn’t work, and found out it was because she had tampons amongst the items she was purchasing. She had to return them.”

    Ms Thompson said another woman had contacted her in response to the blog to say the same thing had happened to her at a supermarket and the reason her card was rejected was because her sanitary item had been incorrectly labelled in the supermarket system to “pull-ups”.

    Ms Thompson said clearly there needed to be better communication between supermarkets and Winz to ensure women were not embarrassed at the check-out counter.

    The supermarket where the alleged incident occurred was contacted by this reporter. They confirmed that the error was due to the products being erroneously entered on the store database as a “pull-up” item, and apologised to the beneficiary, and to the Ministry of Social Development for not following the clear guidelines provided that only exclude electronics, appliances, cigarettes and alcohol.

    We did not bother contacting Paula Bennett, as she is not the minister for supermarkets!

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  25. SW (240 comments) says:

    Hi Monique, cheers for your response. Well that’s another point isn’t it. And in none of my comments above have I said what I think of the story have I?

    I just think DPF is wrong here. The story never accuses WINZ of having such a policy (as DPF points out, the story expressly states the opposite). Despite there being no such policy, WINZ workers have been accused of saying there is one. If that is true, what is with that?

    As to your point Monique, I say fair enough. But do we know they were taking a victimhood approach in order to have a bearing on NZ politics? It looks like the Herald got the story from an obscure blog. They may simply have been having a bitch about the ‘silly cunt’!

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  26. Keeping Stock (10,342 comments) says:

    Those who in years gone by made the New Zealand Herald the country’s best newspaper must be turning in their graves at the state of the tabloid Herald in 2013.

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  27. Monique Angel (291 comments) says:

    It’s a load of shit, innit?
    How do I know it’s a load of shit:?
    No human being would ever speak that way to another person: (Denying a women a basic need in passing conversation)
    Therefore the male Winz respondent in question isn’t particularly humane and may be more accurately described as a ‘Silly Cunt.
    I don’t doubt that this WINZ officer got in this woman’s ear on this particular day. But his actions have no particular bearing on Paula Bennett’s Ministry
    As for the “Lady”, in question: Bleating to the media about the misappropriation of tampons does make you a victim.
    Having a need to purchase tampons doesn’t make you special or a princess.
    Or newsworthy material.
    Any word on when Simon Collins is going to experience”The Change”, slow down and retire?

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  28. David Garrett (7,318 comments) says:

    KS: Well said that man…although to be fair, the decline began long before they “made it official” and adopted a tabloid format.

    The only reason I buy it nowadays is to see what’s on sale this week at Briscoes and Bed Bath ‘n’ Beyond…and those tabloid pages are so easy to start the fire with…

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  29. SW (240 comments) says:

    Right of way is way of right: Being a sensible journalist, did you read the blog article by Tulia Thompson?

    It takes you 7 paragraphs to get to the actual accusation, and then you get it wrong.

    You state that “she could not confirm if the WINZ staffer specifically mentioned tampons and sanitary products”.

    Ms Thompsons blog states, in the first sentence, that a “close female friend who is a “job seeker” went to WINZ because she had absolutely no money for food. After the usual evidence-providing procedures, her case officer provided her with a supermarket card. But when he gave it to her he carefully explained that the supermarket card was for “necessity items only”, and she could not use it for various “luxury items” including tampons and pads.”

    So you incorrectly claim that she could not confirm whether the WINZ staffer specifically mentioned tampons and sanitary products – and that is the very basis of her whole blog post. Was this just an honest mistake? I imagine I won’t get a reply….

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  30. SW (240 comments) says:

    Monique: I agree with you that its not very humane, if correct.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it is world leading news either! And we all seem to agree that the Herald isn’t exactly a beckon of hard news these days.

    But when government employees act in the way described, I can understand it being reported. Much like when an idiot skips work for a waka competition and tries to argue unfair dismissal, I can understand why that makes the news.

    As to your other points – Paula Bennett put herself in the story by tweeting about, the journalist didn’t otherwise make any comments about her ministry? And I disagree anyway, it is a poor reflection on her Ministry if case officers are doing what has been alleged, and it should be addressed, albeit not at her level.

    As for the “lady”, as far as I can tell she hasn’t exactly bleated to the media. She told a story to a friend who blogged about it, and it then got picked up by the Herald (at least that it is how it appears).

    Sorry, what has Simon Collins got to do with this? It was a story by Rebecca Qulliam wasn’t it?

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  31. dime (9,980 comments) says:

    Sw- 66 comments on kiwiblog. 6 in this thread..

    Have you made plans for when the herald makes you redundant?

    How will you replace the 30 stacks you earn a year?

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  32. SW (240 comments) says:

    Haha your onto me dime. You don’t have a job for me by any chance?

    I have been a reader of Kiwiblog for many years but until recently had never commented on a thread. I find most people just comment in agreement with DPF (mostly anyway) and that there isn’t much room for debate. Unless of course it is a David Bain or Gay Marriage thread!

    It is what it is. I would be open to persuasion if anybody could show me that the article was based on a false allegation though!

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  33. Jack5 (5,137 comments) says:

    Gentleman Jim Mora, of Radio NZ’s Radio Labour afternoon show, talked to the blogger who launched the story. The blogger said she was a sociology student (!!) and she was quoting an anonymous friend. So it was all just hearsay.

    This beat-up is the ultimate in “plugs” (stories to benefit a person or organisation) run by the Hooerald.

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  34. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    Just about the sort of story you would expect from a paper whose editor couldn’t bear to share credit with the person who fought, and won, their battle for them.

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  35. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    The only way this story is a false allegation is if these women are lying

    True but you’re missing the point. Kiwibloggers treat beneficiaries only marginally better than paedophiles.

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  36. noskire (842 comments) says:

    I hope condoms aren’t excluded from the WINZ card – in fact they should be defined as a necessity.

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  37. slijmbal (1,236 comments) says:

    Heard the ‘blogger’ on RNZ – was also trying to conflate this with as anti-feminist as in not paying for tampons is obviously targeting women. You could tell Mora did not believe a word of it but was his usual polite self but questions of the ilk “this person is real?” do tend to make the point.

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  38. Longknives (4,764 comments) says:

    Parasitic beneficiaries always make up bullshit when they have been turned down by WINZ.
    Tulia Thompsen (or whatever her name is) probably got refused yet another ‘Emergency’ Grant for more Pokie money….

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  39. Ian McK (237 comments) says:

    Seems the Herald (APN) are competing with Fairfax and its stable of left-wing losers, in particular “Snake Vance”. They are so biased in favour of the bludging left it beggars belief; I cannot understand why advertisers support these devious morons. We now will not use Mazda company cars (Campbell is supplied with one), won’t buy anything of value from anyone who advertises in Fairfax publications, also will not touch anything advertised around the evil Corkery.

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  40. martinh (1,257 comments) says:

    Journalism school in nz must be really shit and only take people who failed school

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  41. wreck1080 (3,923 comments) says:

    This is abysmal journalism and the herald should be ashamed of themselves.

    To claim that low level staff members set department policy is ludicrous. They are the messengers and naturally sometimes mistakes are made which is a matter for internal discipline/training.

    In fact, it is so ridiculous I wonder if the whole story is a lie.

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  42. WineOh (630 comments) says:

    National radio interview at the end of ‘The Panel’ yesterday afternoon – self-righteous “womens issues” academic indignant at how institutional sexism is rife and how this policy degrades women etc etc. Smells entirely of a constructed issue.

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  43. freemark (581 comments) says:

    Does anyone remember the “story” about the lesbian couple being abused or offended at Eden Park? Got headlines for a day, then nothing..no-one else in the whole crowd came forward to say they had witnessed anything, no further follow up, no digging. Wasn’t that also a sociology student (ie Green or Labour supporter)? The strong smell of bullshit in NZ has absolutely nothing to do with the Dairy Industry.

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  44. Right of way is Way of Right (1,122 comments) says:

    SW at 7.05

    Yes, I did read the entire article, and I was very careful to draw a line between what was directly quoted, and what was inferred from context. Ms Thompsons frequent use and absence of quotation marks actually makes this very easy to do. A journalist would have ascertained details of the supermarket involved and confirmed this story, and would have investigated the reason why the supermarket did not allow the purchase of tampons on this card. The MSD clearly stated that the card could be used for the purchase of this item.

    As to the allegation that a WINZ staffer told this woman that she could not purchase tampons and sanitary products, Ms Thompson quotes the words ‘luxury items’, but does not include tampons and sanitary products in those quotation marks, which brings in to question if the WINZ staffer specifically referred to these items.

    We have clearly been advised that the MSD allow the purchase of tampons on these cards.

    We have clearly been informed that this has come about due to an error by the supermarket.

    We have been clearly advised that a WINZ staffer said this card could not be used for the purchase of luxury items.

    It is clear and common sense that these items are not luxury items.

    This is where selected facts have been arranged in such a way as to infer that somehow this is the fault of the MSD, where the blams should more accurately be placed with the supermarket employee who mistakenly loaded these porducts as a pull up item!

    There is your reply. And it’s called fact checking. You report facts, you blog allegations!

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  45. SW (240 comments) says:

    Right of way: I appreciate your response!

    With respect, I do not accept your point. The Herald article itself purports to quote the women directly:

    Her case manager at the Queen Street Work and Income office had told her the payment card the grant was loaded onto could only be used for basic food just as meat and vegetables. She had asked whether tampons or sanitary pads would be covered.
    “His response was that they were considered as luxury items and I couldn’t use the food payment card for them.”

    The accusation is clear isn’t it? As a journalist you cannot confim whether the accusation is actually true, but you can report that the accusation is made. You seem to be saying the accusation is something different then it actually was.

    As to Ms Thompson’s blog, she only uses quotation marks to highlight the words “job seeker”, “necessity items only”,”choose” and “luxury items”. Nothing else is directly quoted. She simply isn’t using quote marks to quote was said to her, she is using them to highlight certain terms.

    I would agree with your post if you changed your sentence to “we have been clearly advised that a WINZ staffer said this card could not be used for the purchase of luxury items, including tampons and sanitary pads”. That is clearly what the allegation is.

    Considering you say that it is clear and common sense that these items are not luxury items, what are your thoughts if these allegations are true? I would have thought most people would find it pretty backwards.

    I don’t totally disagree with you that you report facts and blog allegations. But almost everyday the media report allegations! Case in point, Jerry Collins story from yesterday, or the ‘letter’ circulating about the Labour leadership coup. For better or worse it is what the media does all the time and is not unique to this story.

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  46. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    SW

    It doesn’t matter what the facts are, beneficiaries are deemed by KBers to be little better than paedophiles.

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  47. scrubone (3,099 comments) says:

    It doesn’t matter what the facts are

    You certainly proved that you believe that with the rest of your statement.

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