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No, South Africa’s Sunday Times didn’t publish homophobic article by prominent journalist McKaiser

IN SHORT: Eusebius McKaiser, who is gay, didn’t warn of the “danger” of men hiding their sexual orientation. And he didn’t expose supposedly straight South African politicians as gay. The fake screenshot shows a headline that was never published.

Screenshots on social media show an article headlined: “Beware the danger of man not disclosing their sexual orientation".

The headline credits the article to South African journalist and political commentator Eusebius McKaiser, who is gay.

A person’s sexual orientation describes who they are sexually attracted to. Gay (or homosexual) men are sexually attracted to other men. A person who is only attracted to people of a different sex (such as a man who is attracted to women) would typically refer to themselves as straight (or heterosexual).

Not all men who have sex with men identify as gay. Some may consider themselves bisexual (attracted to people of more than one gender). And some straight men may at times have sex with other men – but not call themselves gay. 

The article in the screenshot lists several male South African public figures who it claims are pretending to be in straight relationships but are secretly gay. The article uses the term “double adaptors” to describe the men. 

By referring to them as “dangerous” it references common homophobic myths about gay men.

But McKaiser never wrote the article and the screenshot is fake. The outlets that supposedly published it have said they would “not consider” publishing homophobic content such as this.


TimesLIVE and Sunday Times warn that screenshots are fake

The screenshots appear to be taken from TimesLIVE, a South African news website that also hosts articles published by the Sunday Times newspaper.

McKaiser is a regular contributor to TimesLIVE. The site recently published a real article by McKaiser with the headline: “Beware the danger of exceptional ‘against all odds’ matric stories.” It comments on discussions about South Africa’s high school matriculation rates.

This article was presumably edited (likely with simple tools available in almost all web browsers) before being posted as a screenshot. Archived versions of the page make it clear that the real thing was never about “double adaptors”.

The Sunday Times and TimesLIVE posted the screenshots on Twitter with a warning that the article was fake. This information was also shared by McKaiser on Facebook and Twitter.

TimesLIVE has also published a short article condemning the fake screenshots. It warns that the column “contains falsehoods of a homophobic nature”, and tells readers that “we would not consider running content of this sort”.

But there are plenty of giveaways that the article in the screenshots was never published on TimesLIVE.

Grammatical errors, homophobic language, unsubstantiated claims

Africa Check has pointed out in the past that spelling and grammatical errors can often be signs of an unreliable source. In this case, the fake article contains several errors that are unusual for a major publication like the Sunday Times, or an experienced writer like MacKaiser.

The headline of the piece makes the mistake of using the singular noun “man” with the plural pronoun “their”. And the text leaves out the word “are” in the phrase “others playing double standards”. 

As well as these outright errors, the article uses much more informal language and writing than MacKaiser’s real articles for the Times.

We wrote in our guide to verifying news articles that if a story doesn’t seem reasonable, it should arouse your suspicions. And we regularly warn readers to look out for shocking or dramatic claims, such as “shocking claims about crime or kidnapping, about people from a different country or racial group, or about new government policies”.

The homophobic claims in the fake article suggest that whoever created it has a personal bias. As does the fact that its list of “double adaptors” mainly includes politicians from the country’s ruling political party, the African National Congress (ANC).

The article’s list of “double adaptors” includes ANC members Tito Mboweni, Fikile Mbalula, Jeff Radebe and others. The only people listed who are not current or former ANC members are Mzwanele Manyi, head of the rival African Transformation Movement, another political party, and media personality Andile Ncube.

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