Sunday Times accused of antisemitism over column on BBC pay

Kevin Myers will not write for Sunday Times Ireland again after suggesting Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman earned more because they were Jewish

The Sunday Times has been accused of antisemitism after it published an article in its Irish edition that suggested the BBC presenters Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz were well paid because they are Jewish.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper removed an online version of the piece by Holocaust denier Kevin Myers [Myers contests this description: see footnote] on Sunday morning amid a wave of outrage, 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.”

Myers has previously written, in the Irish Independent: “There was no holocaust (or Holocaust, as my computer software insists) and six million Jews were not murdered by the Third Reich. These two statements of mine are irrefutable truths.” [See footnote.]

Winkleman is a regular Sunday Times columnist, writing weekly in the Style supplement.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism announced on Sunday it would report the paper to the Independent Press Standards Organisation. It said in a statement: “It is clear that Kevin Myers should not have been invited to write for the Sunday Times, and his editors should never have allowed the article to be published. That they removed the article within hours of publishing it is proof that the decision was irrefutably wrong.

“Rather than moving swiftly on, we now expect the Sunday Times to investigate how this happened, to hold the editor responsible and the columnist to account, and to publish a high-profile and clear apology. We have contacted the newspaper’s senior management and given them our views on what should happen next.”

Lionel Barber, the editor of the Financial Times, described the piece as “undiluted antisemitism and misogyny” while the former Europe minister Denis MacShane said the comments were “truly shameful”.

Danny Cohen, the former director of BBC television, called on the Sunday Times to prevent Myers from writing for any News UK paper ever again.

After the column was removed, the editor of the Sunday Times, Martin Ivens, issued a statement saying Myers’ comments were “unacceptable and should not have been published”.

“It has been taken down and we sincerely apologise both for the remarks and the error of judgment that led to publication,” he said.

The editor of the paper’s Irish edition, Frank Fitzgibbon, added: “I apologise unreservedly for the offence caused by comments in a column written by Kevin Myers and published today in the Ireland edition of the Sunday Times. It contained views that have caused considerable distress and upset to a number of people.

“As the editor of the Ireland edition I take full responsibility for this error of judgment. This newspaper abhors antisemitism and did not intend to cause offence to Jewish people.”

Ivens later added that Myers would not write again for the Sunday Times Ireland and said a printed apology would appear in next week’s paper. A News UK spokeswoman said he had apologised personally to Winkleman and Feltz “for these unacceptable comments both to Jewish people and to women in the workplace”.

Gideon Falter, chair of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “This was an utterly vile column which deployed well-worn antisemitic tropes about Jews. The fulsome apologies from the editorial team at the Sunday Times are welcome, but Kevin Myers is a serial offender who should never have been given an inch of column space in the first place.

“This must be the end of Kevin Myers’ notorious journalistic career and News UK must now confirm that they will never again allow him to write for any of their titles.”

Dave Rich, spokesman at the Community Security Trust, said Myers’ antisemitic comments were “as standard as they come” and said he was surprised the article “got through the whole editorial process and nobody spotted that this is not the kind of thing that should be published”.

Myers has been contacted for comment.

• Note added 18 August 2017 - Kevin Myers says he is not a Holocaust denier. He is not, in the usual sense of that term. He expressed his idiosyncratic view in the Belfast Telegraph of 6 March 2009: “...there certainly was no holocaust. For if the word is to have any literal validity at all, it must be related to its actual meaning, which comes from the Greek words holos, ‘whole’, and caust, ‘fire’. Most Jewish victims of the Third Reich were not burnt in the ovens in Auschwitz. They were shot by the hundreds of thousands in the Lebensraum of the east, or were worked or starved to death in a hundred other camps, across the Reich.... To be sure, you can use the term holocaust to describe these events, but only as a metaphor. However, to turn that metaphor into a political dogma, a denial of which can result in imprisonment, is to create a religio-penal code of which Torquemada would have approved....I’m a holocaust denier; but I also believe that the Nazis planned the extermination of the Jewish people, as far as their evil hands could reach.”


Robert Booth

The GuardianTramp

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