Wednesday 22 May 2019

Kevin Myers: 'Five or six' other people saw controversial Sunday Times column before it went to print

  • Columnist says he doesn't believe in equality
  • Insists he isn't anti-Semitic or misogynistic
Kevin Myers. Photo: Tony Gavin
Kevin Myers. Photo: Tony Gavin
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

THE journalist Kevin Myers has broken his silence to insist he is not anti-Semitic - but has admitted he deserved to be sacked for writing a hugely-controversial 'Sunday Times' column.

Speaking to Sean O'Rourke on RTE Radio One this morning, an emotional Mr Myers apologised profusely for the column two days ago, which saw the newspaper forced to apologise for causing "offence to Jewish people", and which has seen Mr Myers lose his job.

"It was stupid of me, the encapsulation of such a complex issue in a single sentence," he said. "One of my flaws is to deal with major issues with throwaway lines," he added. 

Mr Myers, whose columns have regularly courted controversy, also said that he believed his journalistic career is "over".

"I'm not sure if there's any redemption for me now which will give a lot of people satisfaction," he said.

He said he believed that "five or six" other people would have overseen the column - some in Dublin and some in London - before it went to print.

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)

"A number of people nodded on duty and let something through that shouldn't have gone through," he said, adding that he felt he was the "author of his own misfortune" and took responsibiity.

Under the headline 'Sorry ladies, equal pay has to be earned', Myers wrote on Sunday: “I note that two of the best-paid women presenters in the BBC – Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz, with whose, no doubt, sterling work I am tragically unacquainted – are Jewish. Good for them.

“Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price, which is the most useful measure there is of inveterate, lost-with-all-hands stupidity. I wonder, who are their agents? If they’re the same ones that negotiated the pay for the women on the lower scales, then maybe the latter have found their true value in the marketplace.”

Speaking on RTE Radio today, Mr Myers said he deserved to be let go.

But he denied he is anti-Semitic, or that he is misogynistic - while also saying that he doesn't believe in equality.

In the article he claimed that men are more ambitious, work harder, get sick less often, have more charisma - and are less likely to get pregnant.

Today, he said of the column: "It's not misogynistic, I am a critic of political feminism but I'm not a misogynist.

"That (misogyny) is a term that i don't think you would have used about me in other circumstances, it's a simple way of labelling someone so that you don't have to listen to what they have to say."

"That's an observation I would have made on many occasions and I don't think it would have been the object of such attention in other circumstances.

"I do believe men and women behave very differently and men are driven by ambition and urges that women won't don't have generally speaking.

"I don't believe in equality, I'm not asking questions, you're asking questions.

"I'm on this programme because Mary, your producer, asked me to, she's doing her professional duty but none of us are equal to each other.

"I'm talking about the issue of female equality, like when feminists within the BBC  talk about how they should be equal , nobody is equal - the woman who is making the tea or cleaning the floor isn't equal to the star presenter and that is the issue."

The Sunday Times removed an online version of the piece by Sunday morning amid outcry on social media, but it appeared in printed editions of the newspaper across Ireland.

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.

A spokesperson for Claudia Winkleman declined to comment.

Today, Mr Myers apologised to both women, while expressing the view that his professional career is "over". 

"I am very very sorry to them, I really mean it, I'm not rescuing anything as far as I can see, it's over for me.

"I am issuing an apology for no other reason than contrition of the hurt I have caused them.

"I said those words out of respect for their religion."

Mr O'Rourke asked him if he believed that women are inferior to men.

"You might come to that conclusion - if I thought that then I'd be an idiot," Mr Myers replied.

Mr Myers said he believed that "five or six" other people would have seen the column before it went to print - but that he doesn't believe anyone else should lose their job.

He also clarified why he mentioned the presenters being Jewish in the piece and said that it could merit a future article.

He said: "I do (accept it shouldn't have been written), I have many flaws, one of my flaws is to deal with major issues with throwaway lines.

"I did that with regard to the two women whom I identified within the BBC hierarchy who are particularly well rewarded.

"My Jewish audience will understand that I am a great admirer of Jewish people, I think they are the most gifted people who have ever existed on this planet and civilisation owes an enormous debt to them.

"One of the great qualities about them is their sense of dignity and self worth, the only way that can be expressed in the world of celebrity is getting the right financial package, you don't know how long celebrity is going to last.

"I foolishly referred to their religion as being a motivator, I actually think there is a good article to be had about that but it's not to be done in a throwaway line, that will not be understood."

He stressed that he thinks the Sunday Times was right to fire him but he thinks they could have handled it better.

Mr Myers said: ""I think so because of the impossible situation they were placed in, the manner of which I was disposed of I think was wrong, it could have been more gently and I think it could have been dealt with more diginty.

"Anyone should have a second chance after making an error of judgement, but I've come on air and I'm not fully prepared for what you'll throw at me, I haven't slept in two nights."

He continued to say: "I've lost my livelihood and I don't want anyone else to lose their livelihood, enough damage has been done.

"I enjoyed working at The Sunday Times.

"Enough misery has been caused, you could have a purge and I'm sure a lot of people would like that, a witch hunt with lots of jobs gone, lives ruined and mortgages gone.

"I'm taking responsibility for what I wrote and I can't say anything about anyone else."

The Office of the Press Ombudsman confirmed it is investigating more than 50 complaints over the article

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

Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of the Sunday Times Ireland, said the column "contained views that have caused considerable distress and upset to a number of people". He further confirmed that Mr Myers will "not write again for the Sunday Times Ireland".

Mr Fitzgibbon said he took "full responsibility", adding: "This newspaper abhors anti-Semitism and did not intend to cause offence to Jewish people."

The Sunday Times UK editor Martin Ivens said that Mr Myers' comments were "unacceptable and should not have been published".

He added: "It has been taken down and we sincerely apologise for both the remarks and the error of judgement that let to publication".

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