Wednesday 7 December 2016

Andrea Smith: Katie Hopkins called me fat on national tv - I don't mind her being on the Late Late, so why do you?

Published 11/11/2016 | 14:24

Andrea Smith and Katie Hopkins at RTE after their appearance on The Late Late Show
Andrea Smith and Katie Hopkins at RTE after their appearance on The Late Late Show
Ryan Tubridy has responded to the online backlash against Katie Hopkins' upcoming appearance on The Late Late Show tonight
Katie Hopkins
Katie Hopkins
Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
Journalist Andrea Smith
Eric Trump and his wife Lara Yunaska; President-elect Donald Trump with the new First Lady Melania Knauss and their son Barron (10); Donald Trump Jr and his wife Vanessa Haydon with two of their five children; Ivanka Trump with husband Jared Kushner, who have three children; and youngest child Tiffany, who is aged 22
Andrea Smith and Noah the rescue dog. Photo: Frank McGrath
President-elect Donald Trump’s son Barron, wife Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner standing on stage at the election night rally at the New York Hilton Midtown yesterday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Happy as I am: Andrea Smith. Photo: Gerry Mooney.

I’m the fatty who went head-to-head with controversial columnist, Katie Hopkins, when she was on The Late Late Show back in 2014, talking about how much she despised overweight people.

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When I heard that she will return to the RTÉ flagship show tonight to share her views on US President Elect, Donald Trump, I threw my eyes up to the sky.

At the time, when Ryan Tubridy introduced me, she announced, "You aren’t hard to spot,” and then went on to say that she would hate to be sitting next to me on a plane."

And so began a to and fro which provided an electric atmosphere for the audience, who supported me and a woman whose rhetoric resemble that of a panto villain instead of a woman who was convince explained her views, however controversial they might be.

Ryan Tubridy has responded to the online backlash against Katie Hopkins' upcoming appearance on The Late Late Show tonight
Ryan Tubridy has responded to the online backlash against Katie Hopkins' upcoming appearance on The Late Late Show tonight

Given that she went out of her way to insult me based on my personal appearance, at length, it may surprise you that I’m not irritated at licence-payers’ money being spent on bringing Hopkins on to Ryan Tubridy’s sofa yet again.

My exasperation lies with the 1,131 people (and rising) who have emailed the national broadcaster objecting to her impending appearance, and the countless others who have aired their distaste online. 

The basic thrust of the objections is that RTÉ should not be giving Hopkins such a prominent platform to air her controversial views. I disagree with almost everything that comes out of that woman’s mouth (although I concede that she makes a salient point occasionally).

I’m regularly baffled as to how Hopkins could even find the heart or conscience to air some of her most outrageous and hurtful proclamations, but I absolutely defend her right to be allowed to express them, whether they are to our taste or not.

Journalist Andrea Smith
Journalist Andrea Smith

We are fortunate enough in Ireland to live in a democracy where people are free to present dissenting viewpoints. In other parts of the world, we could be put to death for doing the same thing. We become educated around topics by taking on board and embracing viewpoints that are different to our own, and coming to our own conclusions on issues.

On that basis, it’s interesting to me that some of the most vocal media commentators around Katie Hopkins are the same people always flying the flag for choice and equality.

We all got a horrible shock when Trump was elected to the US presidency, and we’re rightly discombobulated and even scared about what lies ahead.

The racism, sexism, misogyny and general vileness of his campaign made me agree with writer Alice Snedden when she tweeted, "The most qualified woman in the world runs for president against the worst man in the world & this is what happens."

Melania Trump listens to her husband US President-elect Donald Trump speak to the press at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on November 10, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMMNICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
Melania Trump listens to her husband US President-elect Donald Trump speak to the press at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on November 10, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMMNICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

I wonder how many Irish citizens felt the need to email complaints to the U.S. Embassy in Ireland over Trump’s election? As it is closed today for US Veterans Day, I didn’t receive an answer to my query around that, but it will be interesting to learn the figure.

After all, if taken to the extreme, Trump has the power to actually change our lives and alter the course of the future. At this moment, we’re afraid of what this might entail, and we feel that the world is a little darker and more sinister.

I think this might be why there is such a bizarre overreaction to the Hopkins mouthpiece giving her tuppence worth on a mere entertainment programme tonight.

To me, the onslaught of complaints represent misplaced anger over what happened earlier in the week. Motivated by shock and horror, those who chose to object to Hopkins were actually misdirecting their abject sense of futility and helplessness.

By targeting the national broadcaster over the rantings of an entertaining but nasty British windbag, it gave them a little sense of control in a world gone mad.

When Hopkins insulted my size and appearance and that of every overweight person in the country (a whopping 66% of Irish men and 50.9% of women over 20, according to a study in The Lancet), it wasn’t pleasant or palatable. I didn’t like it, but I absolutely approved of her right to express that opinion, just as I believed in my right to present a dissenting viewpoint.

And as being fat is deemed to be one of the worst things you can be in this country, especially if you’re a woman, the only reason I was deemed to have won the argument at all was that it was against La Hopkins, the ultimate Wicked Witch of the West.

Katie Hopkins
Katie Hopkins

In standing up to her, this tubby little Dorothy received fabulous feedback from all around the country, and while there was the odd snarky comment, most people were complimentary and supportive.

I am starkly aware that had obesity expert Donal O’Shea been my opponent in the debate that night, I would not have been praised or lauded. I would have instead been branded by viewers as a big, fat, lazy, unhealthy slob who is apparently costing the country a fortune.

When Sunday Independent journalist Niamh Horan called overweight people "nuisances" on Cutting Edge on Wednesday night, I fumed a little. It caused uproar, but she was absolutely within her rights to express her views. It was an entertainment show, and a diversity of provocative opinions is what gets the nation's blood flowing and fuels ratings.

The other point that people are missing is that televisions come with off buttons, and we live in a world where there are hundred of other channels and alternative forms of entertainment to keep us all occupied.

In other words, if you don’t want to watch tonight or don’t want to add to the LLS ratings, you are perfectly within your rights to exercise that choice.

It will be a huge surprise to me if Katie’s appearance tonight causes viewers to turn off in droves. I'd wager instead that there will be an increase in people tuning in ready to be incensed and annoyed by her quite bonkers views.

And that folks, along with the attendant controversy and furore is what they call entertainment.

And, it’s exactly why, emails or not, Katie Hopkins will always be a most welcome guest on a sofa in Montrose on a Friday night.

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