Prince Harry’s former flight instructor was willfully misquoted by the Mirror

The British media was full of headlines this weekend about one particular section in Prince Harry’s Spare. The section? Where Harry describes his flight training for Apache helicopters, training which came over the course of months and years. Basically, in this one particular section, Harry describes being in the aircraft with his instructor and the instructor – now identified as Sergeant Major Michael Booley – engineering something like a mid-air stall. Harry then had to learn how to restart and maneuver the aircraft.

A full third of Harry’s memoir Spare was devoted to his time in the army, in the course of which he learnt to fly Apache attack helicopters. However, one section, in which he describes an alarming incident on a training mission, is being disputed by the trainer who was sitting next to him, Sergeant Major Michael Booley.

Harry wrote: “On one of our first flights together, with no warning, Booley threw the aircraft into a stall. I felt the left wing dip, a sickening feeling of disorder, of entropy, and then, after several seconds that felt like decades, he recovered the aircraft and leveled the wings. I stared at him. What in the absolute—? Was this an aborted suicide attempt?’ No, he said gently. This was the next stage in my training.”

Booley told the Mirror: “Whilst the book compliments me, the recollection of the sorties and lessons is inaccurate, I’m afraid. It’s important to highlight that nothing in the cockpit comes as a surprise. Every sortie is thoroughly briefed beforehand, every single aspect. The sortie is flown exactly as per that brief.”

Booley added that he retains fondness for Harry, saying: “He was an exceptional student, very talented indeed. He is a friend and a man I respect immensely who would always have my ear.”

[From The Daily Mirror & The Daily Beast]

The Daily Mirror also reported that Booley said Harry’s recollections were “a complete fantasy” and that he was “staggered” by Harry’s version. You get the picture, they got someone on the record to call Harry a liar and fantasist. Here’s the thing: Sgt. Major Booley released a statement after the report came out and he claims his comments were wildly twisted. From his Facebook:

I am Michael Booley, Harry’s former Sgt Major flying instructor, quoted in this article. Out of the blue, I was contacted by the press to be made aware they were writing articles and as I was named in Harry’s book “Spare” I was offered an opportunity to comment on it. I was completely unaware of this. As I had not seen it, I was then provided with an inaccurate version of the book (translated) and in response I expressed my concerns about any possible detrimental narratives from the outset. I later saw the English version and highlighted the differences to the press.

I was then assured that if I offered any comments, they would be reported on accurately. Stupidly and against my better judgement, I proceeded on trust. I made it absolutely clear that Harry was an exceptional student and I had nothing but the utmost respect for him. I highlighted some inaccuracies in the book, in particular reference to the flying sorties, but felt that they were probably not Harry’s words and highly likely to be dramatised due to the fact that the book was Ghost Written. I did not know who the ghost writer was and certainly did not blame him.

Not once did I say anything derogatory about Prince Harry and I certainly never said it was “complete fantasy” as the article headlines would have you believe. I made it clear to the reporters that I would not approve of anything derogatory and yet here we are.

I also made it clear that I myself am suffering with complex PTSD and am under treatment for it and any misquotes or twists could potentially impact my health and well-being. I feel let down and betrayed by them. I also feel foolish for having listened to their assurances of trust and honesty. I should have know better. I certainly did not ask for or receive any payment, as some above comments suggest and am very despondent about how this article has been portrayed !

[From Booley’s Facebook]

I saw some Sussex Squaders shrugging and saying “well, he shouldn’t have agreed to the interview.” And I agree, although I think the larger point is that the Mirror already had a negative narrative they wanted to run and they were likely asking very leading questions and falsifying what Harry wrote in Spare, in addition to willfully misquoting Booley. I feel sorry for him because I definitely feel like this happens so often with outlets like the Mirror, the Mail, the Sun. Still, a good lesson for everyone when dealing with the British media: shutting up is free.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.

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57 Responses to “Prince Harry’s former flight instructor was willfully misquoted by the Mirror”

  1. Rapunzel says:

    Eh…”shrugging and saying ‘well, he shouldn’t have agreed to the interview.'” is kinda unfair. He’s apparently got issues he’s dealing with so I can imagine he hasn’t done a deep dive into just how awful the press is and how badly they want to smear Harry. He was simply unprepared.

    • Naomi says:

      Agreed. Most of the public is unaware of how rotten the Daily Mail is. Or they know DM is generally bad but if contacted by them will think “Well they can’t possibly twist my words around.” Are they naive? Yes. But don’t victim blame! This guy has PTSD and is going through real problems. No one’s perfect. He went on record to correct the story. Sussex Squad needs to have more sympathy!

      • BeanieBean says:

        It was the Daily Mirror this time, but your point still stands. And people should remember, he’s just a regular guy, a soldier, not used to dealing with the press. This is how they are with everyone, everyone gets used & abused by the British press. They had their POV before they even contacted the guy.

    • dee(2) says:

      Yeah, I think sometimes some people forget everyone is not as entrenched in certain subjects as they are, so they think some things should be obvious. I’m sure there are other celebrities out there going through things they have spoken about frequently that I am unaware of and would be surprised at. I do think though that with several different versions of this story happening back-to-back after the book release ( this gentleman, and Mandela’s granddaughter), along with the record-breaking sales of the book for personal consumption is doing the job of just making Harry’s point for the casual consumer.

    • Flower says:

      I think this incident perfectly illustrates the divide between those in the now – i.e. Sussex supporters, those on this board and on the left side of the media vs the general populous of the UK media.

      Much like the Brexit divide where gammons genuinely believed in dream of ‘the sunlit uplands’.

      I truly believe people outside the UK don’t realise the scale of media manipulation as it affects everyday Brits.

      We literally have Brexit for this reason.

      • Underhill says:

        In the US we had trump as president, even though he was not popular enough to win the majority of votes– FOX news and other Right wing news sources assisted mightily. A lot of it is down to one man. Harry very rightly called him out by saying that Rupert Murdoch has a lot to answer for.

      • Mary Pester says:

        As a Brit I can assure you that not a single day passes without absolute crap about harry and or Megan is printed. As a veteran myself I wrote an absolutely stinking email to the mirror today, complaining about the way they twisted Sgt Major Booleys words and that they should be ashamed of treating a hero with ptsd this way, and that I never wanted to see them print an article in support of veterans until they had printed a full apology to Sgt Major Booley and Prince Harry. I also said that if I didn’t see the apology I will notify every veterans association and ask them to boycott the mirror, just like the people of Liverpool boycott the Sun

      • YVR says:

        @ Mary Pester – thank you for your message and email to the Mirror, it’s disgusting what these papers do. It’s beyond me why they still get away with it. I hope actions like yours and the Liverpudlians are successful.

    • DouchesOfCambridge says:

      The press don’t just ask them to comment, they put a lot of pressure to get comments, they twist the story so that the instructor might look bad from the fake excerpt, and it seems like this comrade put out his own conditions begore commenting and it was completely disregarded by the press. Im just happy he put a statement out, this just shows how full of sh!t the press is and how this person didn’t have any ill intentions against Harry.

    • T3PO says:

      I’m not going to blame a man for hoping journalism is truthful. He was lied to. It’s likely hard to believe the entire British media is a bunch of horseshit.

      • First comment says:

        I completely agree T3PO .. he clearly says that those who conducted him gave him the badly translated version and he felt the need to make some comments about it. What I really find fascinating is the fact that the BM , even before the release of the book and having only one bad translation on their hands, were desperately searching and cross- checking every little point mentioned in order to find Harry’s inaccuracies. I imagine they have checked all the names mentioned in the book and the fact that they only came with this kind of remarks after the verification says all we need to know about the truth of Harry’s memoir..

    • molly says:

      And this sort of thing happens all the time! How many well-meaning family members, friends, ex-whatevers agree to an interview because they think they’re helping. “Once they hear the truth, people will definitely change their minds!”

      It’s not how it works. Certainly not with the British tabloids. They’re sneaky, slimy, experts at this game. Poor Michael didn’t stand a chance.

    • ChillinginDC says:

      Agreed. He has mental health issues. I am worried he may hurt himself over this too. I need the Sus Squad people to back the heck off. Good grief.

    • KATHLEEN says:

      My sentiment exactly. Few people monitor the British press for lying as keenly as the Sussex Squad when it comes to reporting about Harry or Meghan. Squaddies can sniff out a tabloid trap from across the Atlantic. This instructor is wrestling with his own demons and is less likely to have paid attention to the tabloids track record.

  2. Brassy Rebel says:

    Sergeant Major Booley says he is experiencing complex PTSD which the reporter probably exploited to draw comments from him. As for surprising Harry by stalling the aircraft, I think that’s pretty standard procedure in all flight training. Informing the student beforehand pretty much defeats the purpose of introducing the element of surprise.

    And he was being asked to comment on the Spanish translation!

    • Dot Gingell says:

      I’m sure Harry expected he’d need to handle a stall as part of his training. It reminds me of a driving examiner telling you you must do an emergency stop when he bangs his clipboard on the dashboard. You know it will happen but not when.

      • BeanieBean says:

        I experienced something similar in dive training. The instructor told us he’d go around us monkey-wrenching, but you didn’t know what he’d do until he did it–pull a mask off here, a regulator there, unbuckle your weight belt & so on. You do need to learn to deal with the unexpected. I have no doubt it is as the instructor said & Harry’s memory or how he related it differs a bit. These dumb writers need to stop with the ‘Harry is lying!’ BS. These are his memories, memories are flawed.

  3. jo73c says:

    Even if he’d said, ‘No comment.’ and hung up, the Mail would still have managed to twist it into whatever headline they’d already decided on.

    • Blue Nails Betty says:

      This is exactly what they would have done. The headline would have been “Harry’s flight instructor refused to verify Harry’s story! What is he hiding?!?”

      This was a no win situation.

  4. Lili says:

    I love that statement “shutting up is free” , by now we all know how this goes whenever it comes to Harry or Meghan it will always be taken out of context. I was really fascinated by his military section in the book , it came to life much more than any film I’ve watched on the subject. If he ever did a second book I would love it to be about his military experience

  5. Amie says:

    I sort of feel sorry for him but Harry has made it clear that the media is a bunch of liars and will misconstrue just about anything to paint him and MM in a bad light. These people that talk to the press can see this on a daily basis.

    I mean also why is he even commenting prior to actually reading the book? Reading passages (translated or non translated) before reading in full is ridiculous. Too many people did that with this book. And it was embarrassing.

    • kirk says:

      Ahem, the British media targeted a man with PTSD and they deceived him with promises that they would correct the record if it turned out their Spanish-English translated segment was inaccurate. They exploited and lied to a veteran, and they knowingly lied to the public with their clickbait “complete fantasy” headline.

      • ThatsNotOkay says:

        Sounds like he’s got all the ingredients for a lawsuit! Maybe Harry can help him out with that.

  6. Brit says:

    I feel bad for this man but at the same time I don’t. Everyone knows Harry’s disdain of the press particularly the tabloids. He’s been so vocal about it and is in a public war with them and now everyone is coming out about how they’ve been taken advantage of. That’s true and it’s disgusting but he should’ve said no comment and kept it moving. Now he can see for himself that the press are literally using the veterans community to create outrage. Like Mandela’s granddaughter, I feel bad but why comment on something that you hadn’t seen or read.

    • Ginger says:

      Same. Everyone knows the British press are trash. They hate Harry and Meghan and will use anyone necessary to go after them. It’s a shame they are trying to discredit his military career and it’s a shame some veterans fall for it. The way Harry went into such detail describing what he went through during boot camp and his two tours is that of a man that served. You can try but you can’t discredit his military service.

  7. Chantal says:

    I feel for him. It’s clear that this experience is upsetting to him and hopefully isn’t adding to his PTSD. Too bad he didn’t provide the specific names of the people who made all of these promises. Truly despicable to outright abuse someone’s trust but its apparently part of the BM’s business model. BM = bowel movement.

  8. Amy Bee says:

    It’s very easy to say no comment.

    • Brit says:

      This. Should’ve said no comment and went on his way. I don’t understand how people are blind when it comes to these tabloids. They’ve had scandals with phone hacking, lying, defamation and people still talk to them.

    • Hmmmm says:

      It is also easy to not comment, but here you are….

  9. Eurydice says:

    One of my favorite quotes – “you f*cked up, you trusted us.” It happens a lot to decent people.

  10. Concern Fae says:

    I haven’t gotten to that part of the book yet, but it always amazes me the way that people say someone else is wrong about a past event and – both people’s stories can be true. The flight instructor gave a full briefing of what the training would involve and Harry had no idea that the helicopter would be stalled out at that moment.

    People get so offended when you have your own memories of your interactions with them. They are always surprised that is how the world works.

    • BeanieBean says:

      Exactly. Memory is a funny thing. I have mine, you have yours, could be same event/conversation, yet our memories differ. It’s normal, it’s human.

  11. C-Shell says:

    When I read that part of Spare, I recognize that training approach. In my looong legal career, I worked for Bell Helicopter and was taken on flights by trainers often, and they would do this exact thing and then proceed to autorotate to a feather soft landing (showing off for the girl lawyer, I’m sure, but it’s an impressive and very necessary skill). My late Darling Husband flew Cobras in Vietnam and was a training pilot — he’d do this exact thing to trainees. Sadly, his last REAL autorotation was in a Huey into the lush forests in Germany, which ended his military career and nearly his life. I have so much sympathy for Harry and Booley, having seen some of the lasting physical and mental effects of service in combat. Should Booley have known that giving an interview to the BM would be twisted into lies to smear Harry? Probably, but his statement is heartbreaking. I hate that we think someone who expects the best of people should be more cynical.

    • kirk says:

      C-Shell – thanks for adding your perspective. Booley sounds like a nice guy who’s just learning about the abysmal state of British media.

    • OriginalMich says:

      I met a guy who was learning to fly helicopters (for fun) more than 20 years ago and he explained to me that this was 100% the scariest part of learning – but mandatory to learn.

  12. matthew says:

    Nobody is forced to speak to the press

    • Julia K says:

      If the reporter says trust me, I’ll only say good things, maybe he thought he was being complimentary toward Harry and that is what would be reported. He wasn’t forced but tricked and coerced and lied to.

  13. Flower says:

    I feel sorry for this guy and I’ll explain why – a lot of genuinely good Brits don’t realise the state the UK is in incl the disarray of our media.

    He genuinely thought they’d write up something like this respectfully – a lot of Brits are like this – they operate on the basis that the person they’re speaking to is as decent as they are.

    The UK is truly a mess and soon even people like this will have their eyes opened.

    • Brassy Rebel says:

      Expecting people to operate in good faith is hardly a character flaw. No one expects an entire media industry to be hopelessly corrupted. We attribute honorable motives to most people when interacting with them. It’s the only way we can function effectively in the world. I don’t blame Booley for not knowing the media cannot be trusted. I blame the media for that.

  14. Lizzie says:

    I feel like a lot of people hear the that press lies and thinks over exaggeration. They don’t expect to be given false info to comment on. Just like Diana being given fake bank records to falsely show people she trusted where paid off. So, in a way it’s kind of good this has been publicized, maybe more people will understand that media will lie straight to your face to get the reaction they want.

  15. MsIam says:

    These tabloids are professional con artists. Remember when one of them called the Sussexes speaking agency for information on hiring them and got a hold of the contract? And then twisted that into some kind of crazy derogatory story? And that was a professional agency used to dealing with the press. A regular person doesn’t stand a chance against these liars. They are a menace and not “journalists”.

    • Dee says:

      Remember the despicable people who got through to one of Kate’s maternity nurses? Remember the “journalists” who were chasing Meghan through icy streets and could’ve caused a crash? They’ll hound people for a headline. They don’t care about safety or the repercussions of their actions.

  16. Milo's Mom says:

    Back in the day, one of our neighbours died in a tragic accident. The national press descended on our little backwater, eager for juicy details. My mother slammed the door in a reporter’s face. He got his story eventually from a little old lady whom he charmed into talking to him. My point is: a reporter will say anything, promise anything, tell you what you want to hear, in order to get that story. Should Harry’s instructor have known better? Yes. But if you’re not at your sharpest, they will find a way to exploit your weakness and get what they want. I feel sorry for him and I hope he’s doing okay and getting any help he needs. And I bet Harry isn’t annoyed with him, he’s probably cursing the media.

  17. C-Shell says:

    Just found this tweet, and now I’m more heartbroken for Sgt. Major Booley. Complex PTSD has some effects that make the tabloid’s actions even more cruel and reprehensible.
    https://twitter.com/byetwit/status/1617207936505217025?s=61&t=1AY-a2mMefNkmdhv9n8GDg

  18. Anna says:

    I think incidents like these, and the people being misquoted coming out and refuting the narratives imposed by tabloids, continues to prove Harry’s point about how toxic and controlling the media can be.

    Whatever opinion one has of Harry, there’s no denying that his actions against the tabloids have given every day people the courage to go up against a major media outlet and tell them “I refuse to be a part of this”.

  19. girl_ninja says:

    I felt for him and how he seemed genuinely distressed that his words were so twisted. It could be that he isn’t really familiar with how awful the British tabloid media is, who knows? Regardless the way he was used and lied about to make Harry look like a is unfair and disgusting.

  20. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    The tabloids really do want to end people. As many as possible. It’s nauseating.

  21. Annalise says:

    Absolutely vile. Another thing, this has probably been obvious to other people, but I’m really realizing that the British tabloid articles are SOLEY written to pander to the royals willing to “play the game”, punish the royals who won’t, and most importantly, to “feed the beast”. The beast being royalists, Tories, and anyone else in the bended knee brigade, all of whom have an insatiable appetite for defamatory stories (true or false be damned) about whichever royal is displeasing to them, all of whom look to the tabloids to satisfy their appetite, and all of whom the tabloids can rely on to click away, take whichever Yougov polls are plopped in front of them, and fill up their asinine comment sections.
    They don’t care that most of the UK and 99% of the rest of the world is horrified by them, because it isn’t FOR them. It really seems to me like the tabloids are un bothered by the rest of the world’s condemnation, because they know that as long as they maintain “plausible” (🤮) deniability of any purposeful misdoings, their loyal readers will squeal with delight at the notion of someone close to Harry maligning him, or of some beloved celebrity writing a violent rape fantasy about Meghan Markle. Their readers will keep clicking away. as long as the tabloids can help see to it that the class system and the monarchy in England endures, so that their posh lives dont have to be unsettled, nor their proximity to the royals compromised, they’re happy and see no reason to do anything differently.

  22. Emily_C says:

    Expecting this man to be media savvy, and blaming him for not being, is victim blaming. And victim blaming always lets the real culprits off the hook. This is the fault of the horrible, frankly evil, treacherous English press. It is not Booley’s fault in any way, and I hope he’s getting support from people who realize that.

    Any of the Sussex Squad blaming him is a patsy. Your aim is wrong and you’re harming an innocent person, which is precisely what the English press wants.

  23. LooseSeal says:

    This man was clear about his C-PTSD and told them that being misrepresented would affect his health and well-being. I see absolutely no fault in what this man did, and he was abused and exploited. It is unconscionable that they did this to a man who sacrificed his own mental health in service to his country and THE CROWN. They don’t care about Britain and they don’t care about British people. This is truly heinous.

  24. AC says:

    They did the same thing to Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter where the Press twisted her words to spin it against Meghan and Harry . In fact she wrote about it in the Atlantic just recently : https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/01/nelson-mandela-name-prince-harry-meghan-markle/672762/
    Good for them for calling out the sickening British Press and their obvious Propaganda for the BRF.

  25. tamsin says:

    Hope this man contacts an organization that helps veterans deal with this. I recall that Harry said he worried about the rate of suicides when he was on Colbert.

  26. Elsa says:

    I am amazed at how people are jumping all over this poor man. Someone with integrity does not expect others to lie and twist their words and not every one is up on gossip and the media as we are (celebitchy fans). Before Trump and Fox News, I thought the press was admirable. Anyone can be mislead and I think it is pure hubris (not to mention a true lack of empathy) to say you know exactly how you would act in a given situation.

  27. Slippers4life says:

    The British Press is pure rot to its core. To lie and take advantage of a veteran who clearly outlined his complex PTSD and how they could do him harm if they misrepresented what he said…and then they go and do it!!! That is criminal and they should be charged. While I appreciated the intention of the Sussex Squad, he has already owned that he went against his better judgement and shouldn’t have spoken to reporters, and I worry about the impact of jumping all over him. He has owned it, he has clarified, he has been clear about his struggles with complex PTSD. We need to thank him for his bravery of coming forward with the truth and owning his error so that 1-people who get put in a similar situation are more likely to own their errors and make this right and 2- he can feel motivated to get the help he clearly needs. I’m not opposed to accountability, I am opposed to the pile on especially of a veteran.

  28. Jess says:

    Definitely sounds like that poor man’s words were twisted and he sounds pretty upset about it (as he should). But I’ll say this. My brother trained to be and now flies internationally for one of the big-time US commercial airlines and he flies private planes on the side as well for some extra cash. And on more than one occasion during his training, without warning, the instructor stalled the plane bc these new pilots HAVE TO KNOW WHAT TO DO IF THAT HAPPENS. They also take them into a simulator and reduce the cabin pressure, so that it mimics the physical symptoms of losing altitude, so these men & women know what how it feels. Obviously the US and the UK are different but it’s really hard for me to imagine that my brother had to go through all of these things just to fly commercial airlines and men and women in the UK military don’t have to go through anything as stringent. Not calling to guy the interviewed a liar, but it seems pretty clear that they twisted his words around to suit the narrative that they want to put out there and I’m just at the point where it’s like, why in the world would any of these people think that talking to the UK media is going to help anything at all?

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