It’s time for a retrospective on the Tim Hunt case. Dan Waddell and Paula Higgins look over Louise Mensch’s “contributions” to the story, and unsurprisingly, discovers dishonesty, distortions, and omissions: many of the people she claimed were contradicting the story of Hunt making a poorly done sexist joke were actually confirming it, but simply saying that it was a sad attempt at humor that backfired.
In the end, the parable of Tim Hunt is indeed a simple one. He said something casually sexist, stupid and inappropriate which offended many of his audience. He then confirmed he said what he was reported to have said and apologised twice. The matter should have stopped there. Instead a concerted effort to save his name — which was not disgraced, nor his reputation as a scientist jeopardized — has rewritten history. Science is about truth. As this article has shown, we have seen very little of it from Hunt’s apologists — merely evasions, half-truths, distortions, errors and outright falsehoods.
As he points out, the story would have been a brief flare-up that could have ended with an apology, Tim Hunt’s career would have continued on, maybe a little more wisely. Instead, Mensch and others turned it into a protracted mess in which they attempted to refute the facts, and now the label of sexism is attached even more firmly to Hunt than cyclins are.