Anti-semitic Sunday Times column raises institutional questions

How did Kevin Myers' comments get past editors and sub-editors and why was he, a well-known bigot, writing for them in the first place?

Yesterday the Sunday Times’ Ireland edition and online ran a column in which writer Kevin Myers questioned whether two female BBC presenters were well-paid because they are Jewish.

The shocking column attacking Claudia Winkleman and Venessa Feltz ran:

Myers was sacked by the paper for these comments late yesterday and the article in question taken off of the Times website.

“Further to our earlier statement we can confirm that Kevin Myers will not write again for the Sunday Times Ireland. A printed apology will appear in next week’s paper”, the newspaper said on Sunday afernoon.

But questions clearly remain.

The most important of which is: why did Myers, a well-known racist and Holocaust denier, have a column with the The Sunday Times to begin with?

The man has a long history of making openly racist comments. Here are two examples.

In 2008, Myers wrote in the Irish Independent (since deleted from their website) that:

“Africa, with its vast savannahs and its lush pastures, is giving almost nothing to anyone, apart from AIDS”

And that was the most vile line from an entire article literally frothing at the mouth with racism and prejudice.

In 2009, Myers wrote in the Belfast Telegraph (again, since deleted) that:

“There was no Holocaust and six million Jews were not murdered by the Third Reich. These two statements of mine are irrefutable truths, yet their utterance could get me thrown in the slammer in half the countries of the EU”

Despite these comments, Myers was still allowed to write for the Times.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism spoke for many, commenting: “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”.

In terms of institutional responsibility, the other question is around how Myers’ comments yesterday got past several levels of sub-editing and editing to make it into the pages of the newspaper.

Damien Owens summed up the contradictions of the newspaper’s position in a tweet:

Myers may have been fired, and the Sunday Times editor may have made a (weak) apology, but we still have to question why Myers’ anti-semitism is apparently seen as acceptable to print in one of Britain’s leading newspapers.

The outrage that came in response to his comments is encouraging, however, and perhaps suggests that, though their editors may turn a blind eye, the public are becoming less willing to swallow the prejudices of racist and misogynistic newspaper columnists.

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