‘Sun’ suspends Kelvin MacKenzie over ‘racist’ Barkley article
Criticism of article comparing footballer to gorilla beyond parody, says former editor
Columnist for the ‘Sun’ Kelvin MacKenzie oversaw the newspaper when it ran a front-page story four days after the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy, headlined “The Truth”. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire
Everton’s Ross Barkley in action against Leicester City’s Andy King. Photograph: Andrew Yates/Reuters
The Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie has been suspended from the newspaper after he expressed “wrong” and “unfunny” views about the people of Liverpool, News UK has said.
It comes after Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson reported to police an article by its former editor Mr MacKenzie which he claimed contained “a racial slur”.
The article was about Everton footballer Ross Barkley, who was punched in a Liverpool city centre bar in the early hours of Monday.
A News UK spokesman said: “The Sun’s columnist Kelvin MacKenzie has been suspended from the paper with immediate effect.
“The views expressed by Kelvin MacKenzie about the people of Liverpool were wrong, unfunny and are not the view of the paper.
“The Sun apologises for the offence caused.
“The paper was unaware of Ross Barkley’s heritage and there was never any slur intended.
“Mr MacKenzie is currently on holiday and the matter will be fully investigated on his return.”
England midfielder Barkley (23) has a Nigerian grandfather.
Mr MacKenzie said it was “beyond parody” for critics to describe his as “racist”.
Mr Anderson tweeted that he had “just given a statement to Merseyside Police about the racist comments in the S*n today by Kelvin MacKenzie comparing Ross Barkley to an ape”.
In his column on Friday, Mr MacKenzie wrote: “Perhaps unfairly, I have always judged Ross Barkley as one of our dimmest footballers.
“There is something about the lack of reflection in his eyes which makes me certain not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody at home.
“I get a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo. The physique is magnificent but it’s the eyes that tell the story.
“So it came as no surprise to me that the Everton star copped a nasty right-hander in a nightclub for allegedly eyeing up an attractive young lady who, as they say, was ‘spoken for’.
“The reality is that at £60,000 a week and being both thick and single, he is an attractive catch in the Liverpool area, where the only men with similar pay packets are drug dealers and therefore not at nightclubs, as they are often guests of Her Majesty.”
Mr MacKenzie oversaw the newspaper when it ran a front-page story four days after the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy, headlined “The Truth”, which featured claims that some Liverpool fans had ”picked pockets of victims” and ”urinated on brave cops“.
He has issued several apologies since over the coverage which he now says was based on “deliberate misinformation from the South Yorkshire Police”.
Last year an inquest jury concluded the 96 fans were unlawfully killed and that the behaviour of Liverpool supporters at the FA Cup semi-final played no role in causing the tragedy.