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The Guardian’s Reputation In Tatters After Forger Revealed To Have Co-Authored Assange Smear

Elizabeth Vos, Disobedient Media

Regular followers of WikiLeaks-related news are at this point [December 3, 2018] familiar with the multiple serious infractions of journalistic ethics by Luke Harding and The Guardian, especially (though not exclusively) when it comes to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. However, another individual at the heart of this matter is far less familiar to the public. That man is Fernando Villavicencio, a prominent Ecuadorian political activist and journalist, director of the USAID-funded NGO Fundamedios and editor of online publication FocusEcuador.

Most readers are also aware of The Guardian’s recent publication of claims that Julian Assange met with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on three occasions. This has now been definitively debunked by Fidel Narvaez, the former Consul at Ecuador’s London embassy between 2010 and 2018, who says Paul Manafort has never visited the embassy during the time he was in charge there. But this was hardly the first time the outlet published a dishonest smear authored by Luke Harding against Assange. The paper is also no stranger to publishing stories based on fabricated documents.

In May, Disobedient Media reported on The Guardian’s hatchet-job relating to ‘Operation Hotel,’ or rather, the normal security operations of the embassy under former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. That hit-piece, co-authored by Harding and Dan Collyns, asserted among other things that (according to an anonymous source) Assange hacked the embassy’s security system. The allegation was promptly refuted by Correa as “absurd” in an interview with The Intercept, and also by WikiLeaks as an “anonymous libel” with which the Guardian had “gone too far this time. We’re suing.”

A shared element of The Guardian’s ‘Operation Hotel’ fabrications and the latest libel attempting to link Julian Assange to Paul Manafort is none other than Fernando Villavicencio of FocusEcuador. In 2014 Villavicencio was caught passing a forged document to The Guardian, which published it without verifying it. When the forgery was revealed, The Guardian hurriedly took the document down but then tried to cover up that it had been tampered with by Villavicencio when it re-posted it a few days later.

How is Villavicencio tied to The Guardian’s latest smear of Assange? Intimately, it turns out.

Who is Fernando Villavicencio?

Earlier this year, an independent journalist writing under the pseudonym Jimmyslama penned a comprehensive report detailing Villavicencio’s relationships with pro-US actors within Ecuador and the US. She sums up her findings, which are worth reading in full:

“…The information in this post alone should make everyone question why in the world the Guardian would continue to use a source like Villavicencio who is obviously tied to the U.S. government, the CIA, individuals like Thor Halvorssen and Bill Browder, and opponents of both Julian Assange and former President Rafael Correa.”

As most readers recall, it was Correa who granted Assange asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Villavicencio was so vehemently opposed to Rafael Correa’s socialist government that during the failed 2010 coup against Correa he falsely accused the President of “crimes against humanity” by ordering police to fire on the crowds (it was actually Correa who was being shot at). Correa sued him for libel, and won, but pardoned Villavicencio for the damages awarded by the court.

Assange legal analyst Hanna Jonasson recently made the link between the Ecuadorian forger Villavicencio and Luke Harding’s Guardian stories based on dubious documents explicit. She Tweeted: 2014 Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry accused the Guardian of publishing a story based on a document it says was fabricated by Fernando Villavicencio, pictured below with the authors of the fake Manafort-Assange ‘secret meeting’ story, Harding and Collyns.”

Hanna J Screenshot_2019-01-01_17-35-55.png

Hannah J

Jonasson included a link to a 2014 official Ecuadorian government statement  which reads in part: “There is also evidence that the author of this falsified document is Fernando Villavicencio, a convicted slanderer and opponent of Ecuador’s current government. This can be seen from the file properties of the document that the Guardian had originally posted (but which it has since taken down and replaced with a version with this evidence removed).”  The statement also notes that Villavicencio had fled the country after his conviction for libeling Correa during the 2010 coup and was at that time living as a fugitive in the United States.

It is incredibly significant, as Jonasson argues, that the authors of The Guardian’s latest libelous article were photographed with Villavicencio in Ecuador shortly before publication of The Guardian’s claim that Assange had conducted meetings with Manafort.

Jonasson’s Twitter thread also states: This video from the news wire Andes alleges that Villavicencio’s name appeared in the metadata of the document originally uploaded alongside The Guardian’s story.” The 2014 Guardian piece, which aimed a falsified shot at then-President Rafael Correa, would not be the last time Villavicencio’s name would appear on a controversial Guardian story before being scrubbed from existence.

Just days after the backlash against The Guardian reached fever-pitch, Villavicencio had the gall to publish another image of himself with Harding and Collyns, gloating : “One of my greatest journalistic experiences was working for months on Assange’s research with colleagues from the British newspaper the Guardian, Luke Harding, Dan Collins and the young journalist Cristina Solórzano from @ somos_lafuente” [Translated from Spanish]

Villavicencio 1 Screenshot_2019-01-01_17-37-52

The tweet suggests, but does not specifically state, that Villavicencio worked with the disastrous duo on the Assange-Manafort piece. Given the history and associations of all involved, this statement alone should cause extreme skepticism in any unsubstantiated claims, or ‘anonymously sourced’ claims, The Guardian makes concerning Julian Assange and Ecuador.

Astoundingly, and counter to Villavicencio’s uncharacteristic coyness, a recent video posted by WikiLeaks via Twitter does show that Villavicencio was originally listed as a co-author of The Guardian’s Manafort-Assange allegations, before his name was edited out of the online article. The original version can be viewed, however, thanks to archive services.

WikiLeaks 1 Screenshot_2019-01-01_17-39-18

The two photographs of Villavicencio with Harding and Collyns, as well as the evidence showing he co-authored the piece, doesn’t just capture a trio of terrible journalists, it documents the involvement of multiple actors associated with intelligence agencies and fabricated stories.

All of this provoke the question: did Villavicencio provide more bogus documents to Harding and Collyns – Harding said he’d seen a document, though he didn’t publish one (or even quote from it) so readers might judge its veracity for themselves – or perhaps these three invented the accusations out of whole-cloth?

Either way, to quote WikiLeaks, The Guardian has “gone too far this time” and its already-tattered reputation is in total shambles.

Successful Propaganda, Failed Journalism

Craig Murray calls Harding an “MI6 tool“, but to this writer, Harding seems worse than an MI6 stooge: He’s a wannabe-spook, hanging from the coat-tails of anonymous intelligence officers and publishing their drivel as fact without so much as a skeptical blink. His lack of self-awareness and conflation of anecdote with evidence sets him apart as either one of the most blatant, fumbling propagandists of our era, or the most hapless hack journalist to stain the pages of printed news.

To provide important context on Harding’s previous journalistic irresponsibility, we again recall that he co-authored the infamous book containing the encryption password of the entire Cablegate archive, leading to a leak of the unredacted State Department Cables across the internet. Although the guilty Guardian journalists tried to blame Assange for the debacle, it was they themselves who ended up on the receiving end of some well-deserved scorn.

In addition to continuing The Guardian’s and Villavicencio’s vendetta against Assange and WikiLeaks, it is clearly in Harding’s financial interests to conflate the pending prosecution of Assange with Russiagate. As this writer previously noted, Harding penned a book on the subject, titled: “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.” Tying Assange to Russiagate is good for business, as it stokes public interest in the self-evidently faulty narrative his book supports.

Even more concerning is the claim amongst publishing circles, fueled by recent events, that Harding may be writing another book on Assange, with publication presumably timed for his pending arrest and extradition and designed to cash in on the trial. If that is in fact the case, the spectre arises that Harding is working to push for Assange’s arrest, not just on behalf of US, UK or Ecuadorian intelligence interests, but also to increase his own book sales.

That Harding and Collyns worked intensively with Villavicencio for “months” on the “Assange story,” the fact that Villavicencio was initially listed as a co-author on the original version of the Guardian’s article, and the recent denial by Fidel Narvaez, raises the likelihood that Harding and The Guardian were not simply the victims of bad sources who duped them, as claimed by some.

It indicates that the fake story was constructed deliberately on behalf of the very same intelligence establishment that The Guardian is nowadays only too happy to take the knee for.

In summary, one of the most visible establishment media outlets published a fake story on its front page, in an attempt to manufacture a crucial cross-over between the pending prosecution of Assange and the Russiagate saga. This represents the latest example in an onslaught of fake news directed at Julian Assange and WikiLeaks ever since they published the largest CIA leak in history in the form of Vault 7, an onslaught which appears to be building in both intensity and absurdity as time goes on.

The Guardian has destroyed its reputation, and in the process, revealed the desperation of the establishment when it comes to Assange.

Elizabeth Vos is a Co-Founder and Editor in Chief at Disobedient Media.


  1. Peter in Seattle says

    There is almost nothing — from think tanks to schools to universities to NGOs to entire political parties — that plutocratic oligarchs cannot coopt, corrupt, and weaponize against their prey (viz., us). Clearly, the City of London Guardian has taken its place alongside the Carlos Slim Times, the Jeff Bezos Post, and MSDNC in the plutocracy’s propaganda arsenal. As with most Western mainstream media outlets — I actually can’t think of any exceptions off the top of my head! — I now read the Guardian primarily for oppo research, to get the Western neolib/neocon party line and find out what the latest identity-politics and social-wedge issues are.

    And by the way, I bet the Guardian would make for a fine bird-cage liner. Just make sure you don’t pay for it.

  2. mark says

    It’s worth considering just how low the MSM in this country, the US and all its other satellites have gone. They have destroyed their own reputation and credibility and shredded whatever authority they once had. This is a fairly recent development, without in any way looking through rose tinted spectacles in the past.
    They could now all collectively walk under a snake’s belly wearing a top hat.
    Previously, they were just extremely biased, distorted and selective in their content, ignoring and airbrushing out alternative narratives and dissenting viewpoints. They did not generally go so far as knowingly printing deliberate lies, manufacturing vile smear campaigns, and acting as a blatant mouthpiece for the Deep State and spook organisations, to the extent of taking envelopes full of cash. Or they probably did, but not on the same scale and not so blatantly. They were a bit more circumspect in what they did. There was some pretence of trying to maintain journalistic standards.
    All this is a thing of the past. They have now taken off the mask and abandoned all pretence of balance, objectivity, and journalistic standards. Everything else has been subordinated to acting as attack dogs of the powerful vested interests they serve.
    Trust in their content has slid below the approval ratings of Pravda and the old Soviet media, which it now so closely resembles. In effect the legacy media has committed collective suicide – as seen by the increasingly desperate and futile efforts to suppress alternative media. This is a sure sign of weakness and desperation, not strength.

    • Wilmers31 says

      Today, the Guardian has a story about developers’ funds. I mentioned Medich, now in jail for the murder of McGurk, and that he had hired former Senator Richardson to assist in his ‘development’ endeavours.

      And yes, that was censored along with the mentioning of the banned book “Sydney Inc: The Murky World of Michael McGurk by Kate McClymont, Vanda Carson (ISBN: 9780522857818)”.

  3. mark says

    Reading this and looking at Freedland, Harding, Viner, Cohen and their ilk, you can only be struck by how degraded and contemptible the MSM has become. The Guardian isn’t fit for toilet paper or lining the bottom of a bird cage. The same goes for the rest of the Murdoch Media, the loathsome state controlled mouthpiece of the BBC, its US equivalents, and the even more debased Ulfkotte style German media.

  4. Regula says

    It is very likely that the CIA is behind this false Assange Manafort meeting in a desperate attempt to forge a connection between Trump, WikiLeaks and Russia for two reasons: 1) to get an indictment against Trump for collusion, but equally important 2) to indict Assange for conspiracy to harm America. The cause for the second reason is that the US doesn’t have a case against Assange and that by now even Giuliani advises Trump not to indict Assange because he is a publisher who didn’t steal the information himself and that he cannot indict WikiLeaks without indicting all the MSM who also published the stolen information. Nor can they indict Assange for espionage or any conspiracy. So an effort was made to create an indictable offense. Remember that Bush tried to connect Saddam with 9/11 to fabricate a case for war?

  5. While I completely agree with the sentiment here that The Guardian has destroyed its reputation, I view that as having happened well before the dirty work on Assange.

    The current management of the paper has done nothing but attack a series of people the establishment doesn’t like, from Putin to Corbyn.

    And not just attacks, but vicious attacks, repeated over and over.

    Readers might enjoy:’

    • The mainstream fake media has become both loathsome and despicable…and they continue to work assiduously at denigrating themselves…

  6. Frankly Speaking says

    Yet more evidence for everyone that the once proud Manchester based Guardian Of The Truth has been hijacked to truly become the London based Guardian Of The Establishment.

    • mark says

      Not “once proud.” It was never more than a piece of Zionist toilet paper, going back to the days of the old Manchester Guardian. It was shilling for Israel even before Israel existed.

  7. Yes there’s money in that fake narrative stuff. Harding has been part of the MI6 gravy train for some considerable time. His expulsion from Russia was a setup which was based on errors in his immigration documents.

    Lavrov even flew to London to sort out the situation but Harding who had already published several Putin paranoid pieces in the Graun refused to go back citing FSB harassment which as usual was pure nonsense. His reasoning full of crass hyperbole which is his stock and trade.

    Ask Steele, ask Harding or even Sergey Skripal if you could what’s the motivation for producing fake intelligence, Is it purely for the money or is it ideologically driven? It’s clear what the answer would be.

  8. Einstein says

    It would be interesting to hear Rusbridger’s views on the demise of the Grauniad.

    • timfrom says


      Or going further back, the late Peter Preston, whom I suspect is rotating at high velocity six feet under…

      Incidentally, this article arrived, as do all the others, in my inbox, but clicking on the headline took me to a Page Not Found page. It was only when I instead clicked on author Vaska’s name beneath the headline that I reached the article.

      These Guardian spooks don’t hang about, do they?

    • FS says

      Rusbridger was part of the rot. In many ways it started with him.

  9. DunGroanin says

    Thanks for joining a few more dots Ms Vos.

    I trust that a legal action is in the pipeline and (always gormlessly photographed – how does he do that look?) Harding and co are dragged into court to perjure themselves straight to a prision and monetary fine.

    The Obssessive/Groaniad’s great Fall is well documented by people who used to work there – like Jonathan Cook.

    It’s ‘accidental death’ goes back to a few items that the DS decided meant it had to go. There was Aitken, phone hacking and Assange and finally Snowden.
    They folded on Hacking by failing to support Leveson’s conclusions – leaving the industry in worse shape.
    My personal dislike of the motives goes back to their WMD/Iraq war support – although i was made quite queasy by their unswerving arse licking of the Blairite presidential team, foot and mouth,the millenium dome … i can’t believe i didn’t see the rot – as many socialsts still dont. The ones that buy their daily comfort blanket for the sudoko and crossword. It is sad.
    I expect Murdochis looking forward to its ultimate demise or zombification as an eye for an eye for the News of the World!

    While I’m here any chance of a O-G piece on Carole Cadwalladr – the newly outed statecraft spiv? (She seems mostly unable to look at the camera – there is a study to be made on the photobyelines of these state controlled hacks!)

    Her utterly disgraceful attempts at tying Fartage to Assange and Putin instead of Murdoch/Cummings/SCL is riscible. Her Xmas tweets on Putin and the tragic Red Army choir from years ago are nasty. She hasn’t spoken of her Integrity Initiative links and has gone quiet except on her ‘victimisation’ by Andrew Neil / BBC. I see that she has taken to re-tweeting others rather than her own lies.

    The Groaniad is dead. Long live the Off-G.

    • milosevic says

      i can’t believe i didn’t see the rot – as many socialsts still dont.

      Any “socialists” who went along with the Iraq War should be rounded up and shot. The worst kind of enemies are the ones behind you.

  10. Narrative says

    2 liars exposed, but this is only the beginning of the story.

    People need to know WHO is instructing these characters Harding and Villavicencio to behave in this malign manner and keep slandering the innocent truth tellers, and who enabled the Guardian to become a platform for slanderers and warmongers.

    These 2 guys, Harding and Villavicencio, are merely the tip of the iceberg. Obama and Hillary Clinton are parts of the same iceberg. According to the Guardian, Hillary Clinton is a feminist icon with godly rights to be a president. The Guardian keeps ignoring the fact that Hillary Clinton is a pathological liar, and keeps ignoring corruption and the litany of pay for play acts and backroom dealings the Clintons are/were engaged in.

    Senator Rand Paul confirmed Hillary could get five years in prison for lying to Congress in 2013 about the fact that the US is arming terrorists in Syria.

    Hillary Clinton, Harding and Villavicencio are all parts of the same web of fabrication and deception that the Guardian, and other bought corporate media, keep weaving for us.

    More work needed to expose how the information flows between all these dangerous/deceiving characters.

    • DunGroanin says

      Narrative you ask WHO controls the media spivs? They don’t hide –

      ‘they are British, Eton educated, headquartered in the city of London and have close ties to Her Majesty’s government.’

      And another indy blog site names each and everyone of them

      A rummer bunch of establishment thuggery as any that was ever gathered.

  11. David William Pear says

    The Guardian has ruined its reputation so badly that I am afraid to ever again use it as a source for attribution. It is unfortunate because it used to have some very good journalists that did some very good reporting.

    Propagandist such as Harding might want to review the Nuremberg Trials. There is a point that once crossed even a so-called “journalist” is considered a war criminal for fueling crimes against humanity and wars of aggression.

    While it is very unlikely that a warmongering journalist in the West would ever be punished, it still does not remove the stain of blood on a warmonger’s keyboard.

    • Jim Scott says

      I agree with your position on Harding and his collaborators. Harding is making money by trying to get Assange outed from Ecuador’s Embassy and killed or imprisoned by the USA. The man is a lying scumbag without any decency whatsoever. Surely the guardian must apologise to Assange and Manafort and sack Harding for once and for all.

      • Frankly Speaking says

        Yet more evidence that the once proud Manchester based Guardian Of The Truth has been hijacked to truly become the London based Guardian Of The Establishment.

      • eagle eye says

        Why would “the Guardian” or its owners apologise for something they clearly intended to do? Your comment tells me you totally misunderstand the relationship between the publisher of the rag and the actions of those whose garbage is published.

        I have a good mate who sends me their articles. I regard them as articles of propaganda.

  12. wardropper says

    Oh, and I do believe someone just mentioned the words, “Guardian”, and “reputation”, in the same sentence…
    We really must try to keep up with the times. That was ages ago.

    • George cornell says

      I think reputation can be a neutral word, to be preceded by adjectives like appalling, manipulative, deceitful, or followed by .. for dishonesty, for lack of integrity, for inaccuracy, for doctrinaire mouthpiecing etc. in the case of the Fraudian.

    • writerroddis says

      Not the first time you’ve made such a comment, king felix. My thoughts?

      One, most OffGuardian writers are unpaid and lack the resources to do investigative journalism.

      Two, criteria other than novelty are just as valid. Is a piece truthful? Can it reach audiences with facts and/or analyses/viewpoints/syntheses they’d otherwise not encounter? Is it (C J Hopkins and Kit come to mind) exceptionally well written?

      Three, the above notwithstanding, I’m sure your own above-the-line writings are exemplary on all counts. Er, where do we find them …. ?

  13. writerroddis says

    Off-topic: some links here – one being to the Sputnik piece on Murray’s description of Harding as MI6 tool – were blocked. Only when I switched browser to Tor could I access them. That’s one of umpteen small signs,- another being how often clicks through to ICH (Information Clearing House) throw up a “this site is associated with criminal scams” pop up, show us falling ever deeper into totalitarianism.

    On-topic: good piece that repays following through on its many links.

  14. Josh says

    We know because of the Integrity Initiative how dispersed and organized the UK intel services are in fringe-financing the financially struggling corporate media – the Guardian is the primary and happy recepticle of their excrement. Harding was exposed time and again. Please keep exposing these lying parrots. At best, MSM journalists robotically choose out of an increasingly narrow list of narrative stories (Google has exposed how predictable the best of us are in our choices); at worst, they are ideological warmongers.

    • TroutMaskReplica says

      How are the Guardian’s circulation figures calculated?

      • writerroddis says

        ABC – Audit Bureau of Circulation – is or used to be the bible on that question, TroutMaskReplica (great name, btw). Media buyers use its figures to negotiate prices for adverts.

  15. harry stotle says

    I suppose we obsess about the Guardian because the media is controlled by a vipers nest of plutocrats who enjoy nothing more than tormenting Britain’s illiterate public with endless garbage about immigrants, scroungers or Jeremy Corbyn.

    Understandably a loose alliance of left leaning commentators long for an independent outlet capable of deviating from the rancid status quo, but what do we get instead, eh, the bloody Guardian: a platform committed to pro-establishment drivel that doesn’t even have the courage to acknowledge how neocon myths about 9/11 are little more than a massive cover up for a derranged resource war that has not only taken down Julian Assange but god knows how many others in the Middle East, North Africa, Latin America and central-east Europe.

    Given their recent track record, especially some of their stuff on Syria, or Russia who is in the least bit surprised Luke Harding has sold his soul to corrupt intelligence agenices?

    • Derek says

      “a vipers nest”
      You read Niall Bradley’s comment on R.T about Russia should destroy the west along with Blighty.

      Interesting you mention 9/11 because a certain Mr Putin of Russia believes the Neocons;

      “This is complete nonsense, it is impossible,” Putin said on Monday, responding to a question posed by an attendee of the Seliger 2011 youth forum.

      “To imagine that US intelligence services did it deliberately, with their own hands, is complete nonsense,” the prime minister said. “Only people who do not understand the workings of security agencies can say that. It would be impossible to conceal it.”

      Putin added that he could not imagine how “any of the current or former US leaders could have such an idea.”

      Complete nonsense from Vlad himself.

      And he offered to help invade Afghanistan,8599,2093529,00.html

      Putin, who had been the first to call Bush with his sympathy after learning of the 9/11 attacks, graciously offered to help with the invasion of Afghanistan. He let the U.S. ship supplies through Russian territory and did not object to the U.S. setting up bases in Central Asia, where the local despots quickly caught on to the opportunity.

      He graciously offered his help to invade Afghanistan….. he believes everything the Neocons say and wanted a piece of that deranged resource war.

      • harry stotle says

        That’s a different line of argument to the OP or my response to it.

        Putin’s commentary is secondary to the fact a terrible deed was committed on US soil which Bush or his shifty inner-circle steadfastly refused to investigate properly.

        Ever since 9/11 the Guardian has been waving the star spangled banner despite the calamitous cost to its reputation as a once left-of-centre news outlet – my memory might be playing tricks but wasn’t there a time when the Guardian was not just another platform pushing neoliberal propoganda?

      • wardropper says

        Seven years ago, many more people thought it would be impossible to conceal an inside-job nineeleven too. And some still do. However, Washington today is so far-gone that it doesn’t even care what people think any more.
        Be that as it may, WTC7 just won’t go away, and once you open that door, the smell of the slaughterhouse will stay with you.
        I don’t suppose Putin even knew much more about WTC7 than Obama would have known about some comparably suspicious-looking “office fire” in Moscow in 2011.
        But Architects and Engineers for the truth are not going to go away either, and, without having any particular political axe to grind, they have exposed the official story for the infantile farce it really is.
        Another point here is that Operation Northwoods, which Putin really ought to know all about, shows quite plainly that “current or former US leaders could EASILY have such an idea” as long ago as 1962, and obviously have done several times since then.
        I’d like to know his current views on all this, because if he still follows that line today, he and his reputation automatically join all the other murderous world leaders who claim to represent human beings on Planet Earth.
        Words like “Russia”, and “America” really don’t mean much in any case, while we continue to follow such wretched leaders gaily into a soulless abyss.

        • bevin says

          “I’d like to know his current views on (Operation Northwoods, which Putin really ought to know all about), because if he still follows that line today, he and his reputation automatically join all the other murderous world leaders who claim to represent human beings on Planet Earth.

          I cannot imagine how you involve Putin in this matter. Do you really believe that it is either proper or desirable for him, as Russian President, to voice an opinion on WTC 7?
          There is much wrong with his government but his refusal to become involved in the 9/11 matter is not one of them.

  16. John A says

    Also shame on the Old Vic Theatre, 200 years old, for scheduling a new play, based on ‘Luke Harding’s jaw-dropping exposé of the events behind the tragic death of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko’.
    That should read, based on convicted plagiarist and in his own words ‘storyteller rather than fact based reporter’, Luke Harding’s jaw drooling fantasy of the events behind the death of Russian gopher and probable polonium-210 smuggler Alexander Litvinenko. All with the aim of smearing Russia and Putin.

    • Jim Scott says

      John perhaps the Old Vic could hire Paul Barril as an expert adviser to ensure accuracy given Harding is so inaccurate.

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