I'm the vic­tim, says colum­nist sacked over jew-hate slur

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY LEE HARPIN

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.”

PHO­TOS: GETTY IM­AGES

Vanessa Feltz and Clau­dia Win­kle­man fea­tured in Mr My­ers’s con­tro­ver­sial

Sun­day Times ar­ti­cle

Kevin My­ers

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