Sunday 16 December 2018

'How did it end up in the paper?' - Vanessa Feltz breaks her silence on 'obviously racist' Kevin Myers column

Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio One. Photo: PA
Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio One. Photo: PA
Claudia Winkleman was among the BBC's top female earners.
Kevin Myers Photo: Tony Gavin
Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of the ‘Sunday Times Ireland’

Sasha Brady and Allison Bray

Vanessa Feltz has said she feels "extremely upset" over the Sunday Times column in which controversial journalist Kevin Myers suggested she and fellow BBC presenter Claudia Winkleman earned more because they were Jewish.

Speaking on her BBC Radio One show on Monday morning, Ms Feltz described the Kevin Myers' opinion piece as "so obviously racist it's surprisingly hurtful".

She also questioned how the article could have been considered fit to publish by editors.

"I said to the editor to the Sunday Times when he phoned to apologise... I'm a journalist and I don't understand how that could be considered suitable to publish.

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

"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."

Ms Feltz said the comment piece was "every vile stereotype about what Jewish people have ever been deemed to be by racists".

She added: "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. It's not a very nice feeling."

"The apologies are all very well but how did it end up in the paper in the first place?"

Claudia Winkleman was among the BBC's top female earners.
Claudia Winkleman was among the BBC's top female earners.

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

Under the headline “Sorry ladies, equal pay has to be earned”, Myers wrote: “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.”

A spokesperson for Claudia Winkleman declined to comment.

Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of the ‘Sunday Times Ireland’
Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of the ‘Sunday Times Ireland’

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".

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism yesterday asked for confirmation that Mr Myers would never again work for another title owned by News UK, which publishes the Irish and UK editions of the Sunday Times as well as the Irish Sun and its UK editions.

The article also controversially questioned why only one woman is among the top 10 best paid presenters at the BBC.

"Now why is this?" Mr Myers asked.

"Is it because men are more charismatic performers? Because they work harder? Because they are more driven? Possibly a bit of both," he said.

He also claimed the HR department at the BBC "will probably tell you that men usually work harder, get sick less frequently and seldom get pregnant ... But most of all, men tend to be more ambitious: they have that greyback testosterone-powered, hierarchy-climbing id that feminised and egalitarian-obsessed legislatures are increasingly trying to legislate against".

The controversy, however, did not stop Mr Myers from appearing in a panel discussion yesterday at the inaugural West Cork History Festival in Clonakilty.

He was a panellist discussing the commemoration of Irish soldiers who fought in World War I.

Among his co-panellists was Rabbi Julia Neuberger, one of the first women in the UK to become a rabbi.

Rabbi Neuberger, who is a senior rabbi at the West London Synagogue, is also a member of the House of Lords and a high-profile writer and commentator.

Despite the controversy, she sat alongside Mr Myers during the panel discussion. However, Mr Myers did not address the controversy over his column during the event.

Meanwhile, an article by Mr Myers published in the 'Irish Independent' on March 4, 2009, is no longer available online as it does not comply with our editorial ethos.

The article on the Holocaust was removed on July 30, 2017 after its existence was brought to our attention.

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