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22 August 2012

Why is Michael Fish lying about base-jumping, and why are people printing it?

The iconic weatherman, 68, famous for mis-calling the Great Storm, did not jump off a tower block.

By Alex Hern

You may have seen a “viral video” going around yesterday, showing veteran weatherman Michael Fish base-jumping to raise awareness of climate change. The Mirror reported it (Look, a flying Fish! Watch weatherman Michael Fish B.A.S.E jump for climate change awareness), as did the Express (WATCH: ICONIC WEATHERMAN MICHAEL FISH PARACHUTES OFF A BLOCK OF FLATS), while the Huffington Post even ran an op-ed from Michael (Why I Did a Base-Jump to Highlight Climate Change).

The only problem is he did no such thing. The video shows Michael Fish standing at the top of a tower; cuts to a distance-shot of a man jumping off the tower; and then cuts back to Michael Fish standing on the ground.

The stunt was arranged by “ethical clothing company” Rapanui, who confirmed that at no point did Fish actually jump from a tower; instead, it was a “qualified base-jumper” named Dan Witchalls.

The whole thing smells a bit funky. On the one hand, Rapanui were certainly off-base in sending out their press release, which states, in no uncertain terms:

Michael Fish MBE, the iconic British TV weatherman, has completed a B.A.S.E. jump from a London tower block to raise awareness of climate change.

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Fish, who is 68 years old and, made the freefall jump from the rooftop, landing by parachute on the ground more than 200 feet below. Fish trained with experienced urban B.A.S.E jumpers prior to the jump.

On the other, while Rapanui have no technical obligation not to lie to the press to further their brand, the Mirror, Express and Huffington Post probably oughtn’t to be uncritically reprinting false press releases. And Michael Fish certainly shouldn’t be writing intense first-person accounts of an event which never actually happened:

We gained access in a way that might be, shall we say, frowned upon by the police. That, plus the fact that we had a little crosswind on our hands (I had forecast that earlier but nobody would listen, by the way) made for quite a tense atmosphere on the roof. I have to say, there was a part of me that wasn’t quite so keen as I had been discussing the idea a month earlier when we last met. Nevertheless, when it came down to it, the training kicked in and it was all over very quickly.