Sunday 19 January 2020

'Comments on Jews were meant as compliment'

Emma Barnett interviewed Kevin Myers for the BBC
Emma Barnett interviewed Kevin Myers for the BBC

Ryan Nugent and Kathy Armstrong

Journalist Kevin Myers has insisted that his controversial comments on two Jewish broadcasters in a newspaper column last weekend were meant as a "compliment".

Mr Myers was sacked from his role as a columnist with the 'Sunday Times' following the remarks in his column in which he linked the pay of two BBC employees, Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman, to the fact that they are Jewish.

"Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price," Mr Myers said in the column.

However, speaking on BBC radio, the former columnist apologised "unconditionally" to both broadcasters for the remarks.

Ms Feltz has described the comments as "so obviously racist" on her breakfast radio show.

"I would have thought after all these years I'd be immune or used to it, but that's not at all how I felt. I felt extremely upset. The apologies are all very well, but how did it end up in the paper in the first place?" she said.

Reacting to this, Mr Myers said this was not his intention.

"It was intended as a compliment and I wouldn't even allow the thought it was intended as an insult," he said.

"It was intended as a compliment, I do understand why she didn't get it," he added.

He also said he was not justifying the column.

"If I haven't made in plain, I will make it plain, I retract everything I said, I apologise for it, I did not justify it," he said.

"There is no justification for it.

"I am to blame for this, I am the master of my soul, I am the author of my own misfortunes, I offer no justification for this," he added.

Interviewer Emma Barnett asked Mr Myers: "Presumably you think I have special powers as a Jewish broadcaster to get paid better than my colleagues who aren't of the same faith?"

To which he replied: "I didn't know you were Jewish and I have no opinion on how much you earn.

"It's not an issue whether you're Jewish or not, it doesn't enter my head."

When pressed that it must have entered his head when writing the controversial column, he replied: "It's a good question, to which there's no particular answer.

"I Googled the various people and I came across that these two women are Jewish, I didn't do it out of anti-Semitism.

"It's out of esteem for how Jewish people behave, to maximise your potential because nobody else will do it for you.

"It's a characteristic of the Jewish potential," he added.

Ms Barnett replied: "I wasn't told as a 12-year-old sitting in Jewish Sunday school in synagogue to go out and earn as much money as possible and maximise my potential."

During the interview Mr Myers referred repeatedly to the backing of the Jewish community in Ireland, and insisted that he wasn't anti-Semitic and that "a lot of Irish people sympathise with my position".

Meanwhile, in a separate interview with the 'Jewish Chronicle', Mr Myers reiterated this.

"I think Vanessa Feltz called me a racist. Calling me a racist? The Jewish community in Ireland has, as you know, said I am not anti-Semitic. I made a mistake - but I'm not an anti-Semite."

Irish Independent

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