A man buys a Sunday newspaper at a news stand in London July 17, 2011..
(photo credit: REUTERS/SUZANNE PLUNKETT)
Sunday Times columnist Kevin Myers has publicly apologized to the two Jewish BBC presenters he wrote about in a recent column that sparked accusations of antisemitism.
In an interview with RTE Radio on Tuesday, he said: “I am very, very sorry that I should have so offended them and I do utter an apology, not for any reason other than out of genuine contrition for the hurt I caused them, but I uttered those words out of respect for the religion from which they come. And for the religion that I still hold in high regard, particularly the Irish members of that religion who have been so forthright in their defense of me generally.”
Myers is an Irish journalist, and the article had appeared online and in the Irish print edition of the paper on Sunday. The Sunday Times
deleted the column from the site, issued an apology and fired the writer, following the uproar it triggered.
Myers said that he had no ulterior motive for issuing the apology: “I’m not rescuing anything. It’s over for me professionally as far as I can see,” he told RTE.
In the offending article, Myers had implied that Claudia Winkelman and Vanessa Feltz earned high salaries because they are Jews.
“I note that two of the best paid women presenters in the BBC – Claudia Winkelman and Vanessa Feltz... are Jewish,” Myers wrote. “Good for them. Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price.”
Pressed on how the column had passed through the editorial process, he estimated that five or six editors would have read the article, some in Ireland and some in London. “A number of people nodded on duty and let something get through that shouldn’t have got through..., but I am the author of this,” he said, stressing that he took full responsibility, and did not seek to share the blame with anybody.
“I have many flaws. One of my flaws is to... deal with major issues in throwaway lines. And I did that with regard to the two women whom I identified within the BBC hierarchy who were particularly well rewarded,” Myers told RTE Today’s Sean O’Rourke, saying that he is not an antisemite but rather a “great admirer of the Jewish people.”
“I think they are the most gifted people that have ever existed on this planet. Civilization owes an enormous debt to them. One of the great qualities of the Jewish people is their sense of dignity and sense of self-worth,” he said, explaining the thought behind the controversial sentence.
This is far from Myer’s first foray into offensive statements. In 2009 he published a column in The Independent
titled “There was no Holocaust,” in which he claimed as “irrefutable truth” that six million Jews were not killed under the Third Reich.
That article remained online for more than eight years, until the Independent finally pulled it on Sunday, saying that it “does not comply with our editorial ethos.”