Kevin Myers: ‘I’m not sure if there is any redemption for me’
Columnist, under fire over comments on Jews and women, says he is in ‘a very bad way’
Columnist Kevin Myers has said he is the author of his own misfortune and takes full responsibility for controversial comments that appeared in his Sunday Times column at the weekend. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.
Columnist Kevin Myers has said he is the author of his own misfortune and takes full responsibility for controversial comments that appeared in his Sunday Times column at the weekend.
Myers said his remarks had been foolish, that he had “serious professional flaws” and it was very hard to say how he could recover professionally from the debacle.
“Personally I’m in a very bad way,” he told RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke, adding that he had not slept for two night. “I’m not sure if there is any redemption for me.”
In the column headlined “Sorry, ladies - equal pay has to be earned”, Myers hit out at the “tiresome monotone consensus of the commentariat, all wailing and shrieking as one about how hard done by are the women of the BBC”.
The article said: “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. 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?”
Feltz on Monday described the column as “vile” and said that some of its contents were “blatant racism”.
The Sunday Times has apologised for publishing the article and for causing offence to Jewish people. It has been removed from its website and an apology is to be published next week. It has said Myers will not write for the publication again.
The Times and its sister paper the Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers in London, which is a subsidiary of News UK, itself wholly owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
In his first comments on the issue, Myers said he believed “five or six” people would have seen the copy before it went to press.
“I am the author of my own misery, I am the master of my soul, the author of my own misfortune. I must answer for what I’ve done. I must do nothing to bring ruin to others,” he said. “I don’t want anyone else to lose their livelihood. Enough misery has been caused.”
Myers said he heard about his sacking “after everyone else” and that he had received a phone call from the Dublin office of the Sunday Times to say his column had caused “online uproar”.
He said he was surprised and subsequently received a text message asking him to call the London office. When he did so he was told “this is where we part company, you won’t be writing for us again”’
“Everyone nods. Homer nods. A number of people nodded for it to get through.”
Myers said he was a great admirer of Jewish people. “They are the most gifted people on the planet. Civilisation owes them a great debt. They have a wonderful sense of dignity and self worth.”
The Jewish Representative Council in Ireland came to his defence, saying that branding Kevin Myers as either an anti-Semite or a Holocaust denier was “an absolute distortion of the facts”.
He said that the only way that self worth could be expressed in the celebrity world was by how much they were paid. “It was a foolish remark. I didn’t think about it, as I so often do. It was a throw away line, it was trivial. It wasn’t personalised, it was intended out of respect.”
On Sunday at the West Cork History festival he knew he would be meeting Rabbi Julia Neuberger and he thought they could have a joke about his column. “That shows how stupid I was,” he said. “I told her what I’d done and she said I was wrong. I might have sounded anti-Semitic but I am not anti-Semitic.”
There are not the same sensitivities to anti-Semitism on this side of the Irish Sea, he said, which was why it went through. “We don’t have the antennae.”
He said he had forgotten that for Jews across the world there is greater sensitivity to anti Semitism with armed guard required at synagogues.
“I am taking responsibility for what I did. Enough misery has been caused. Lots of people like a purge, a witch hunt.”
On the claim that his comments were also misogynistic, he said he was a critic of political feminism and believed that men and women behaved very differently as they had different urges. “None of us is equal to each other.”
“If I thought women were inferior, I’d be an idiot. I have a weakness for facile terminology. I’m not an unpleasant person.”
Myers said he had apologised to Feltz and Winkleman.