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No Evidence for Facebook Quotes Attributed to Politician Thérèse Coffey – Full Fact

A picture circulating on Facebook wrongly attributes a quote to former Conservative MP Therese Coffey. Next to a picture of Dr Coffey, the post says: “It’s not my job to worry about people starving to death in the UK.”

But there is no evidence that Dr. Coffey ever said this.

We first saw this image circulating back year 2020when Dr. Coffey was Labor and Pensions Secretary for the then Conservative government.

The Facebook posts shared ahead of the parliamentary elections on 3 and 4 July 2024 appear to use the same image; Dr Coffey is still referred to in them as an MP and as “Secretary of State for Work and Pensions”, despite her ceasing to lead that department in September 2022, and when Parliament was dissolved in May 2024 ahead of the election, was no longer a Member of Parliament.

As we previously wrote, the quote appears to refer to an interview Dr Coffey did with Sky News in September 2020, and a comment she made to the Press Association (PA), following the death of Mercy Baguma – a Ugandan woman who sought asylum in the UK and was found dead with her malnourished child in Glasgow on August 22, 2020.

When a PA reporter tried to ask Dr Coffey about Ms Baguma on August 26, 2020, reportedly responded: “I appreciate that you want to talk about other issues, but they’re not really for me”. When the reporter asked if Dr Coffey would hear the matter, Dr Coffey is reported to have said “I’m aware there are some issues, but we’re really here today to talk about pensions and climate change”.

Then, in one interview with Sky News, presenter Kay Burley asked Dr Coffey why she had not previously wanted to discuss Ms Baguma’s case when asked about it. Dr. Coffey replied, “I haven’t actually been asked about this lady before, so I don’t know where it’s coming from”.

She continued: “This is really a matter for the Home Office to decide what the immigration status is for each individual” and that people can “apply for changes to the Home Office if they are struggling with aspects of it and the Home Office can make that change so they can access public funds.” On neither occasion did Dr. Coffey say the words attributed to her in the Facebook posts.

The earliest example of the image we could find was shared September 5, 2020and claimed that Dr. Coffey made this comment on September 4, 2020. We could find no evidence that Dr. Coffey gave any interviews on this date, nor did she speak in the House of Commons.

This is not the first time we have seen quotes wrongly attributed to politicians or public figures, including now Prime Minister Keir Starmer, Chancellor Rachel Reeves, Labor MP Diane Abbott, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Pope Francis.

False or misleading claims online have the potential to harm individuals, groups, and democratic processes and institutions. Online claims can spread quickly and far and are difficult to contain and correct.

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