Monday 16 October 2017

Results of 'Sunday Times' probe into Kevin Myers column to be released

Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of the ‘Sunday Times Ireland’
Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of the ‘Sunday Times Ireland’
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

THE SUNDAY Times is today expected to complete its investigation into why a column branded anti-Semitic and misogynistic was published by the newspaper last weekend.

The inquiry results are expected to first be circulated to anyone named in the report, including the author Kevin Myers, as well as senior management at the owners of the Sunday Times, Rupert Murdoch’s News UK company based in London.

A senior executive from the London headquarters travelled to Dublin earlier this week to interview Irish editor Frank Fitzgibbon and his deputy John Burns.

Mr Fitzgibbon, in his 60s, is well known for his waspish comments on social media. Mr Burns is also the paper’s media commentator, known for feverishly issuing online and print rebukes to other journalists, newspapers and broadcasters on a weekly basis.

Both are known for spending a lot of time on social media particularly at weekends when the Sunday Times goes to print.

Mr Fitzgibbon, well known in social circles,  has remained unusually silent despite the ongoing controversy surrounding the newspaper's sacking of outspoken columnist Kevin Myers. He is often seen socialising with other media types in central Dublin.

Last Saturday night Mr Fitzgibbon issued a barrage of more than a dozen tweets on various subjects in his capacity as editor. Mr Myers’ column - widely-criticised as anti-Semitic and misogynistic - was published that evening and went on sale in newsstands the following morning.

Aside from making a statement in which he apologised and took "full responsibility for this error of judgment" hours after the furore over the now-infamous column erupted on Sunday, the editor has remained silent - both on Twitter and in the public domain.

Neither Mr Fitzgibbon nor other senior editorial executives at the newspaper have responded to media requests for a comment on the controversy over what was initially an opinion piece on the gender pay gap in broadcasting here and in the UK.

It is not known when senior officials from News UK, which publishes both the Irish and UK editions of 'The Sunday Times', will release the findings of their internal inquiry into how the column was published.

More than 50 complaints have been made to the Office of the Press Ombudsman over the piece, which Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and others have branded "anti-Semitic and misogynistic".

In the piece, Mr Myers referred to the Jewish faith of high-earning BBC presenters Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz, stating Jews are "not generally known for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest-possible price," which both women said they found deeply offensive.

Mr Myers broke his silence on Tuesday on RTE Radio and "unconditionally" apologised to the presenters during an interview with the BBC on Wednesday. He said he was not an anti-Semite and had intended the reference as a compliment "for how Jewish people behave, to maximise your potential because nobody else will do it for you".

Meanwhile, Seth Barrett Tillman, a law lecturer at NUI Maynooth who is Jewish, told RTÉ Radio's Sean O'Rourke yesterday that he personally believed that Mr Myers had been "railroaded", adding he didn't believe the piece was anti-Semitic nor was it "intended to be hurtful".

"This is a man who has been crushed. It's merciless and it's wrong," he said of Mr Myers being subsequently dismissed.

"I think it's utterly disgraceful. I think that if he doesn't get his job back he will be remembered as the Irish Dreyfus." Alfred Dreyfus was a French Jew who was wrongly accused and convicted of treason in the 19th century.

Mr Tillman added in later correspondence: "Dreyfus was a victim of real anti-Semitism. Myers is a victim of purported anti-anti-Semitism, faux outrage, virtue signalling, and political correctness on stilts. This social media mob will kill this man, and that senior politicians have joined this mob passes the bounds of decency. Those who sit back and allow this to happen will one day see the McCarthyist mob turned on them."

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