Broadcaster George Hook has promised not to do a Nazi salute again after he made the gesture on live television.
Hook has again found himself in controversy, after his first public broadcast appearance since his departure from his Newstalk show for remarks he made about rape.
On the Nolan Live BBC television show in Belfast, he referred to cyclists as wearing “brown shirts” and said they sang the Nazi anthem. He then raised his arm in a Nazi salute.
The Jewish Representative Council of Ireland said he was “absolutely wrong” to use such language, as it diminished the atrocities of the Nazis.
The group’s spokesman accepted Hook “was not anti-Semitic in anyway whatsoever.”
Following the criticism yesterday, Hook told the Herald he did not mean to cause offence to Jewish people.
“I’m not going to do it again,” he said.
The broadcaster was emphatic last night that he made the gesture and remarks on Thursday’s programme in the context of his own “upset, anger,” and “exasperation” about certain matters.
He was “angry and upset” he had been put on air with only four minutes left in the show, after he had agreed to make a 320km round trip to Belfast on the understanding he would be taking part in a serious, 20-minute discussion on cycling as a member of “the anti-cycling lobby”.
He said he was appalled to hear a woman on the programme describe how she was abused on Twitter for criticising cyclists. He said he had endured a lot of anonymous abuse on Twitter after his departure from his Newstalk show.
“I’m now in constant terror that a cyclist will come whizzing along a footpath and knock me down,” he said.
When cycling advocate Malachi O’Doherty said people believed cyclists were part of a “uniformed cult,” Hook said he was still thinking about Twitter trolls as he then made his remarks about cyclists wearing Nazi shirts.
He then made the Nazi salute and there was laughter in the audience. Stephen Nolan, the host of Nolan Live, responded to Hook. “No, no, no, no. Not acceptable,” he said. “Not acceptable. Not funny.”
The BBC said Nolan dealt with the issue “immediately and firmly” on air. It added: “We don’t comment on the nature or number of complaints.”
Maurice Cohen, chairperson of the Jewish Representative Council, said it was wrong to make the gesture.
“We would condemn any reference to Hitler or the Nazi regime to illustrate, even with hyperbole, another discussion or topic,” he said. “It is absolutely wrong and to be condemned, as it diminishes the terrible atrocities of the Nazi regime.
“We know that George Hook would not, in any way, wish to offend Jewish people or be anti-Semitic in any way whatsoever. We would urge him, and others, to think carefully before referencing that worst period in humanity’s history.”
Irish Cycling Advocacy Network chairperson Colm Ryder strongly criticised Hook’s remarks on the show.
Last night, Hook reiterated that his remarks were in the context of anger at Twitter trolls, which he said were the type of people who would have burned women at the stake as witches centuries ago.
“Regarding the remarks by the Jewish community, I grew up in the Jewish area of Cork. I coached the Jewish rugby team. I am an honorary member of The Dublin Maccabi Association,” he said.
“If the member of the Jewish community says they would prefer if I didn’t do it again, then you can bet your bottom dollar I’m not going to do it again.”
George Hook was making his first public broadcast appearance since leaving his Newstalk show due to remarks about rape.