“We utterly refute any allegation to the contrary. It is a matter of huge regret that Peter Oborne, for nearly five years a contributor to the Telegraph, should have launched such an astonishing and unfounded attack, full of inaccuracy and innuendo, on his own paper (my italics).”
—A spokesman for the Daily Telegraph.
Refute is not synonymous with rebut or deny. That is, it doesn’t mean merely “to counter an argument,” but to “disprove beyond doubt; to prove a statement false.” Yet the word is commonly misused for rebut—e.g.:“Ontario Hydro strongly refuted [read denied or rebutted] the charges, saying none of its actions violate the Power Corporations Act.” Tom Blackwell, “Local Power Utilities Sue Ontario Hydro Over Pricing,” Ottawa Citizen, 25 Apr. 1997, at D16. See rebut.
Sometimes the word is misused for reject—e.g.: “Two-thirds of the people refuted [read rejected] [Nicholas Ridley’s] belief the European Monetary Union is a ‘German racket to take over the whole of Europe’…” Toby Helm, “Majority Back Euro Deals,” Sunday Telegraph 15 July 1990, at 1.
—A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, Bryan A. Garner