AN IRISH journalist, whose remarks about two Jewish BBC presenters in last weekend’s Sunday Times newspaper caused him to be dropped as a columnist by the paper, has been defended by the Jewish Council in Ireland.
Kevin Myers — a veteran columnist who is noted for his forthright and often controversial views on a range of topics — commenting on the equality pay row at the BBC, suggested that two female presenters were highly paid because they were Jewish.
In his piece “Sorry, ladies, equal pay has to be earned”, Mr Myers remarked on the “tiresome monotone consensus of the commentariat, all wailing and shrieking as one about how hard done by are the women of the BBC. . .
“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?”
The remarks created a wave of condemnation and an immediate apology from the Ireland edition of The Sunday Times, with the promise of a full printed apology in next week’s paper and an assurance that Mr Myers would no longer write for the publication.
Ms Feltz described the comments as representing “every vile stereotype about what Jewish people have ever been deemed to be by racists”. The chairman of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Gideon Falter, said on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland programme that he was absolutely appalled by the comments.
Mr Falter expressed surprise at such views, which he described as both anti-Semitic and misogynistic, and said that he had no idea how they were cleared for publication.
On Monday, however, the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland came to Mr Myers’s defence, in a statement saying that he had been misunderstood, and was not anti-Semitic. It said that, “more than any other Irish journalist”, Mr Myers had “written columns about the details of the Holocaust over the last three decades”, and that he had “inadvertently stumbled into an anti-Semitic trope”.
It went on: “Yes, Kevin ought to have known that his bringing the religion of the two BBC presenters into his writings on Sunday would cause concern and upset and that it was both unnecessary and bound to be misunderstood.”
The statement from the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland also said that accusing Kevin Myers of being anti-Semitic was a gross distortion, and accused other media outlets of misrepresenting the facts.
“The knee-jerk responses from those outside Ireland appear to care little for facts and pass on (along with some media outlets) falsehoods about his previous writings without verification. This has been exacerbated by a thoroughly misleading headline being sent around the world that is wholly unrepresentative of the article to which it refers. . . It is wrong that misconceptions and misinformation be circulated about his previous writings.”
The Council said that “those who know him personally know that, while this was a real error of judgement on his part, also know that he is not an anti-Semite”, and that it would be a shame “if Mr Myers’ voice was lost based on his mistake and other people’s misconceptions about his prior writings”.
The Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, said that he thought The Sunday Times had taken the appropriate action.