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Wednesday 18 October 2017

Winkelman and Feltz could take legal action over Myers' 'Sunday Times' column

Taoiseach slams 'misogynistic and anti-Semitic' Myers column

Claudia Winkelman (centre) and Vanessa Feltz (right) were mentioned in a column by Kevin Myers (left)
Claudia Winkelman (centre) and Vanessa Feltz (right) were mentioned in a column by Kevin Myers (left)
Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of the ‘Sunday Times Ireland’
Sean Donlon. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie 

Allison Bray, Cormac McQuinn and Conor Kane

BBC presenters Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman could take legal advice over the 'Sunday Times' column by Kevin Myers, the chair of the Press Council of Ireland has said.

The Office of the Press Ombudsman confirmed it is investigating more than 50 complaints over the anti-Semitic article on gender pay by Mr Myers, which has cost him his job.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar branded the Sunday Times column "misogynistic" and "anti-Semitic".

"I read the article. And it is misogynistic and anti-Semitic," the Taoiseach stated.

The article headlined 'Sorry, ladies, equal pay has to be earned' said that men "work harder, get sick less frequently and seldom get pregnant".

Mr Myers also wrote that the two best-paid women in the BBC were Jewish and "Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price".

Kevin Myers. Photo: Tony Gavin
Kevin Myers. Photo: Tony Gavin

The editor of the 'Sunday Times' Ireland Frank Fitzgibbon has not commented on the controversy since issuing a statement on Sunday. But there are increasing calls on him to explain how the article got published.

Mr Fitzgibbon had been effusive on Twitter throughout Saturday night, stating the virtues of the paper. However he has not responded to calls for a full explanation.

Amid the initial fallout on Sunday, he said the newspaper "abhors anti-Semitism and did not intend to cause offence to Jewish people". Increasingly, there have been calls for him to explain how the column was allowed carry many misogynistic views as well as anti-Semitism.

There was also no further comment from senior figures at the News UK-owned newspaper, as senior executives in Britain launched a full investigation about why the decision was taken to publish.

BBC presenters Vanessa Feltz (left) and Claudia Winkleman. Photo: PA
BBC presenters Vanessa Feltz (left) and Claudia Winkleman. Photo: PA

"This is dreadful beyond belief. Everyone here is astonished at what happened and how it was allowed to happen in Dublin. You will understand the matter is far from over and we are reviewing everything," said a senior source in London.

Sean Donlon, chair of the Press Council of Ireland, confirmed that the Office of the Press Ombudsman received 54 official complaints about the matter. These include 48 from its UK counterpart IPSO, and six in Ireland.

Due to confidentiality provisions, he could not say whether BBC presenters Ms Winkleman and Ms Feltz were among the complainants.

Mr Donlon said the 'Sunday Times' had "taken appropriate steps so far". "But it's not the end," he said, adding that Ms Feltz and Ms Winkleman could still seek legal advice.

Mr Myers himself has refused to explain why he made the comments.

Associate editor of the 'Sunday Times' and Mr Fitzgibbon's deputy, John Burns, a regular media commentator, said he did not wish to comment when contacted last night.

There was widespread speculation there will be a review of the Irish edition's editorial autonomy, but staff were said to be in the dark. One insider said there had been no communication with staff yet - with Mr Fitzgibbon expected to report to the London headquarters of News UK to explain the embarrassing mess.

Colleagues expected he would appear in the Dublin office at some stage today, if not in Britain to meet executives at Rupert Murdoch's company.

Ms Feltz herself voiced outrage at the content of the article on the BBC's Radio London breakfast show. She said the piece highlighted "every vile stereotype about what Jewish people have ever been deemed to be by racists". She also questioned how something "so blatantly racist" was allowed to appear in the newspaper.

Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald said that "there's an onus on everyone, including the media obviously, to make sure that articles like that do not appear".

Labour TD Joan Burton said the article was "an example of grotesque prejudice against women". "In particular I find the remarks against Jewish women are a disgusting, racist and sexist stereotype" she said. "I think Mr Myers should retract the statements made in his article and apologise to the women he singled out in his article."

Rabbi Julia Neuberger, one of the first women to become a rabbi in the UK, spoke out after appearing alongside Mr Myers at the West Cork History Festival in Clonakilty on Sunday.

She said Mr Myers "fell into the trap,in my view, of using an old anti-Semitic card. It's an old thing to say 'Jews are rich, they're good at money, they've been bankers, whatever, whatever'. He fell right into that and I thought it was disgraceful and he shouldn't have done it."

Lionel Barber, the editor of 'The Financial Times', also denounced the article as "undiluted anti-Semitism and misogyny in one paragraph in a newspaper."

The 'Sunday Times' has already confirmed that Mr Myers will no longer be writing for its Irish or UK editions following a barrage of complaints.

It also removed the piece from its website on Sunday and promised to run an apology in its next edition.

The Reaction

When someone alerted me to it... I couldn’t believe such a thing had been printed. It is absolutely gratuitous, not cleverly done, it’s blatant racism. When you see it like that, it’s very horrifying.”

Vanessa Feltz

I read the article and it is misogynistic and anti-Semitic in my view and I think the ‘Sunday Times’ has taken the appropriate action.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Kevin Myers, who in many ways I admire greatly, fell into the trap, in my view, of using an old anti-Semitic card. He fell right into that and I thought it was disgraceful and he shouldn’t have done it.”

Rabbi Julia Neuberger

(The article was) Anti-Semitic and misogynistic and indeed insulting in an uninformed way to RTÉ and to the BBC.”

Chairman of the Press Council, Sean Donlon

In particular I find the remarks against Jewish women are a disgusting, racist and sexist stereotype.

I think Mr Myers should retract the statements made in his article and apologise to the women singled out.”

Labour TD Joan Burton

It is understandable that there is a strong response to, and rejection of, Kevin Myers’s article but it is wrong that misconceptions and misinformation be circulated about his previous writings.”

Maurice Cohen, chair of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland

There’s an onus on everyone to make sure that articles like that do not appear.”

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald

Irish Independent

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