Last year I wrote about a speech J.K. Rowling gave at the PEN literary awards gala on the importance of free speech. Rowling took the classical liberal line saying the answer to speech that offends you is not a safe space but more speech. She went even further, warning that anyone who attempts to silence speech they disagree with is traveling the path of tyrants. Rowling even used the example of a petition to keep Trump out the the UK, saying it was a mistake to try to silence him even though she considered him a “bigot.”

Perhaps 20 years ago, or even 10, that stance would have been unremarkable, but today we live in the era of call-out culture, micro-aggressions, safe spaces and the heckler’s veto. So having the world’s best-known living author unreservedly defend free speech the way Rowling did seemed like a significant win for the good guys. And that’s why it’s a bit disappointing to see the way she has behaved over the past few days.

It started, as these things often do, with a video clip that had been edited in a misleading fashion. Someone tweeted out a video of President Trump apparently ignoring the outstretched arm of a little boy in a wheelchair. That really set Rowling off. The tweets have since been deleted but they read in part, “This monster of narcissism values only himself and his pale reflections. The disabled, minorities, transgender people, the poor, women (unless related to him by ties of blood, and therefore his creations) are treated with contempt, because they do not resemble Trump.” She added, “My mother used a wheelchair. I witnessed people uncomfortable around her disability, but if they had a shred of decency they got over it.” Chelsea Clinton also jumped on the bandwagon, RTing some of what Rowling had said.

If Trump had ignored a child in a wheelchair, he’d deserve all of this and more, but it turns out the president didn’t do that. The NY Times reports:

The boy’s mother, Marjorie Kelly Weer, wrote in a post on Facebook over the weekend that Ms. Rowling had misinterpreted the situation. “If someone can please get a message to JK Rowling: Trump didn’t snub my son & Monty wasn’t even trying to shake his hand,” she wrote, adding that Monty didn’t much like shaking hands.

Here’s a screencap of the mother’s message:

Video also confirms Trump went directly to 3-year-old Montgomery Weer as soon as he entered the room.

At some point, Rowling did learn she had made a mistake. She deleted the tweets attacking the president and then issued this semi-apology:

This is pretty weak sauce. Rowling gets partial credit for deleting the false tweets and acknowledging she made an error. However, where is her apology. Yes, she apologizes to Monty Weer and his family but she didn’t call him a “monster.” Where is the apology to Trump, the person she implied lacked a shred of decency?

I understand that Rowling doesn’t like Trump very much but if you unload on someone based on your own misunderstanding, don’t you need to take responsibility for that? As someone who writes dozens of stories a week, I’ve been in this situation a few times and it’s never pleasant to find out you made a mistake. But personal responsibility is an important part of free speech. Given how clearly she spoke about the topic last year, I expected J.K. Rowling to know that and to act accordingly.