I'm the victim, says columnist sacked over jew-hate slur
THE SUNDAY Times writer who was sacked for suggesting that BBC presenters Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman were well paid because they are Jewish has said he has been “gravely insulted” by Ms Feltz, who described his words as “racist”. In an interview with the JC, Irish columnist Kevin Myers insisted he was “not inclined” to offer personal apologies to either of the two women, citing the manner in which BBC radio host Ms Feltz had attacked him over his remarks after his column was published last Sunday.
However, he did attempt to reassure the community of his belief that Jews were the “most admirable, talented people the world has produced”.
Mr Myers claimed he had “made a wrong call” in writing the article and accepted that his words were “what looked like a return to the old tropes of the money-grasping Jew”. His column appeared in the Irish print edition of the newspaper and online — he was fired within hours of its publication.
Under the headline “Sorry ladies, equal pay has to be earned”, he 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.”
He added: “Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling
their talent for the lowest possible price”.
On Monday, as she arrived to present her Radio London breakfast show Ms Feltz described the column as “so obviously racist it’s surprisingly hurtful”.
She added: “I would have thought after all these years I’d be immune or used to it but that’s not at all how I felt. I felt extremely upset. The apologies are all very well, but how did it end up in the paper in the first place?”
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 on Wednesday, Mr Myers insisted he wanted to “put on record” his apology to the two presenters.
But at the time of his JC interview, he had made no direct contact with Ms Feltz or Ms Winkleman. Asked whether he intended to, he responded: “I don’t want to give myself an absolute commitment because whereas I do understand their indignation, they have said things about me that are far sterner than I think I merited.
“I think that Vanessa Feltz called me a racist. I made a mistake — but I’m not an antisemite.”
He said he had been “offended” by the language Ms Feltz and Ms Winkleman had used — although as yet Ms Winkleman has not commented on the affair — and refused to consider writing a letter of apology.
He said: “I’m not inclined to do that — great damage has been done to me. Irreversible damage, and I’m going to suffer for the rest of my life.
“I have been gravely insulted by them. A stigma has been placed on the name Kevin Myers which I don’t deserve. I’m not blaming them. It is what happened. No damage was done to them — irreversible damage was done to me.
“The editor of the Sunday Times said I would never ever work for that newspaper.”
Mr Myers said he had “great admiration” for the Jewish people and revealed that, as a boy, he had pretended to be Jewish.
“People used to ask when I was young about the name Myers, which they said was unusual,” he said. “I would say; “That’s because I’m half-Jewish”. I’m not though. I just like the notion of being Jewish.”
When, at the age of 11, he moved with his family from Ireland to Leicester, he met Jewish children for the first time at the local grammar school he attended.
He said: “I didn’t know Jews were living human beings. I thought they belonged to the Bible. My parents didn’t discuss Jews, there wasn’t any reason.”
Mr Myers said at school he looked up to “an artistic boy called Goldstein” although they never actually became friends.
He said: “I met Jews and they were a little bit more watchful, a little bit more intelligent than the other boys around. One of the reasons people do dislike Jews is because they are so talented.
“You know this. You don’t speak it, you don’t say it — but you know it is true.”
At university, back in Dublin, Mr Myers said he become friendly with an Israeli-Iranian Jewish man who was “about 5ft 4 and was by a wide margin the most successful man with women I ever saw”.
He also revealed that his first two serious relationships with women were with Jewish girls — “both of them American I should tell you.” He stressed his regard for Jews was “not money, the issue is not money. The issue is high achievement. It is making the most of your assets.
“That is why I respect these two women [Ms Feltz and Ms Winkleman]. They made the most of their assets.” He went on to cite two Jewish concert violinists who had made a particular impression on him.
“David and Igor Oistrakh, I regard them as the greatest violinists of the 20th century. There are many others and most are Jewish.
“But the thing about becoming a classical violinist is it is not a way to make a lot of money.
“What they had was an ability to speak to the human soul using two violins. That tells me something about the Jewish people.”
He added: “If you deduct Jews from the history of the human race, you have a vastly impoverished species, without the mathematics, without the science, without the industry, without the literature.”
He admitted he had made errors in the way he had written about Jews , describing his column as “poorly constructed.
“If you are going to deal with an issue like Jews in the media — how successful they are, then it’s a serious work in itself,” he said. “Don’t do it with a throwaway aside. And that was one of my basic mistakes.”
When Mr Myers’s editor first alerted him to the outrage caused by the article on Sunday morning, he “genuinely didn’t know what the storm was about”.
He found out he had been sacked from his sister-in-law in Cumbria. “She had heard it on the BBC news.”
It is not the first time Mr Myers’s work has caused controversy. Eight years ago, in a column in the Irish Independent, he claimed it was an “irrefutable truth” that six million Jews had not been killed by the Nazis.
The article, which led to claims Mr Myers was a Holocaust denier, was not removed from the paper’s website until Sunday.
The columnist said he had been heartened by the backing he has received from Maurice Cohen, chair of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland.
In a statement issued on Monday, Mr Cohen said Mr Myers was not antisemitic and had “inadvertently stumbled into an antisemitic trope”.
Mr Myers said he was “proud” that many Irish Jews had contacted him since the column was published.
“People understood this was an error and they have forgiven me,” he said.
And in a defiant parting shot, he declared: “I’m not a racist, I know what I am.”
Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman featured in Mr Myers’s controversial
Sunday Times article