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UK's Sunday Times deletes 'anti-Semitic' article after backlash

Posted July 30

The editors of London's Sunday Times and the newspaper's Irish edition have apologized after publishing an article Sunday suggesting that two well-known British TV and radio presenters were paid more than other women because they were Jewish.

The column by journalist Kevin Myers, about the public broadcaster BBC and an ongoing debate about gender pay equality there, has since been taken off both publications' websites.

"I note that the two best-paid women presenters in the BBC -- Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz, with whose, no doubt, sterling work I am tragically unacquainted -- are Jewish," it read.

"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?"

Winkelman is the TV host of the immensely popular "Strictly Come Dancing" and Feltz is a morning radio chat show host.

Myer's article also suggested that male TV presenters are better-paid because they "usually work harder, get sick less frequently and seldom get pregnant."

The article, headlined "Sorry ladies, equal pay has to be earned", was attacked for being anti-Semitic as well as sexist, and Jewish organizations in the UK immediately complained.

"The comments in a column by Kevin Myers in today's Irish edition of the Sunday Times 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 judgement that led to publication," Martin Ivens, editor of the Sunday Times, said in a statement.

Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of the Sunday Times in Ireland, said: "On behalf of the Sunday Times 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 anti-Semitism and did not intend to cause offence to Jewish people."

It is not the first time Myers has caused offense. In 2009 he wrote a column, published on the websites of the Irish Independent and Belfast Telegraph, in which he denied the Holocaust. Both papers deleted the article Sunday as the backlash over his BBC pay comments escalated.

In July 2008, Myers wrote an article, headlined "Africa is giving nothing to anyone -- apart from AIDS", arguing that providing aid to Africa only results in increasing its population. The article, published by the Irish Independent, was found to have caused offense by the Irish Press Council, who said it was full of "rhetorical extravagance and hyperbole," according to the Irish Times. That article was also deleted from the Irish Independent website on Sunday.

In 2013, when Ivens was still acting editor of the Sunday Times, he was forced to apologize to Jewish community leaders for the "inexcusable timing" of publishing a cartoon they considered offensive on Holocaust Memorial Day.

"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 column to be published," said the Campaign against Anti-Semitism on its website.

"That they removed the column and apologised for it within hours of its publication is proof that the decision to include the column was irrefutably wrong."

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