Our Feb. 28 story “Mississippi’s child abuse pediatrician works between medicine and the justice system. Can he be objective?” has been updated to reflect that former University of Mississippi Medical Center Vice Chancellor Dr. Dan Jones said the reason for hiring Dr. Scott Benton in 2008 was to better protect abused children and parents — not as a result of previous lawsuits the hospital faced.
The article cites a 2017 deposition that Dr. Scott Benton gave in which he said Jones recruited him to UMMC as a direct response to previous lawsuits that the hospital had faced for “failing to recognize child abuse in some cases.”
Jones denies the accuracy of Benton’s assertion.
Jones’ full statement submitted to Mississippi Today after publication reads: “In my role as vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, I was not directly involved in determining the need for a specialist in child abuse evaluations nor in the decision to hire Dr. Benton. I am confident that none of these decisions were driven by anything other than the best interests of the children and parents of Mississippi. I am certain that protecting the medical center against lawsuits would never take priority over the welfare of any of our patients in any decision made by me, those working with me during my time of leadership, nor of any decisions made by my successors in leadership. Any statement by a Mississippi Today journalist wrongfully impugning my character or assuming motives for decisions without evidence is strongly resented.”
At Mississippi Today, we take seriously the power our words can have, and we constantly weigh the responsibility we owe readers in using them. In more than 10 years as a Mississippi journalist, I have closely covered Jones in his various prominent leadership roles and do not have any reason to question his integrity — and that includes when he served as UMMC’s leader when Benton was hired. I can say unequivocally that in the weeks of reporting, writing, editing and fact-checking of the Feb. 28 article in question, no Mississippi Today journalist once intended to impugn Jones’ character.
Two sentences in our original article, however, didn’t clearly attribute Benton’s 2017 deposition as the source of information regarding his recruitment to UMMC. We apologize for that omission and have updated the story to make it clearer who said what and when.
I’d like to use this opportunity to share with readers a little more about our reporting process. Understanding why Benton was brought to UMMC in the first place is critical to contextualizing the questions our reporting raised about his work in later years. We spent weeks exhausting every option available to us to learn more about the exact nature of Dr. Benton’s hiring. Before the story published, Jones twice declined to speak with us on the record about Benton’s statement regarding why he was hired. He referred our inquiries to current UMMC public affairs officials, who subsequently declined to respond to two detailed questions about the nature of Benton’s recruitment.
Additionally, UMMC officials declined several requests for interviews with Dr. Benton and made no other medical center official available for an on-the-record interview. Without comment or an interview to discuss why Benton was hired, we cited what was available to us: Benton’s sworn testimony from the 2017 deposition — a public record and Benton’s own words.
Mississippi Today will continue to be completely transparent with our readers about updates to stories and any necessary corrections or clarifications. And when our reporting is called into question, we will publicly respond as appropriate.
My inbox (email@example.com) is always open for comments, concerns or questions about our reporting.
READ MORE: Mississippi Today’s full “Shaky Science, Fractured Families” series