The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland released its latest decisions on broadcasting complaints.
In respect of a complaint made against RTE’s Morning Ireland – in which former Sunday Times columnist Kevin Myers was called a “holocaust denier” by one of the show’s presenters – the BAI upheld the complaint.
RTE has reported that it is considering a response to the finding.
BAI’s summary of the complaint – by Karl Martin – states:
The complainant states that one of the presenters on this programme described Mr. Kevin Myers as a ‘Holocaust denier’. The complainant states that this was an absurd claim based on a newspaper article written by Mr. Myers over eight years ago under a misleading headline that he didn’t write.
The complainant states that Mr Myers took issue with the word ‘Holocaust’ on account of its Greek origin, meaning ‘destroy by fire’. He stated that there was no single Holocaust because it took many forms; Jews were shot in pits, beaten to death, frozen and starved to death, burnt alive in their homes and synagogues and gassed.
The complainant maintains that it is quite clear from the newspaper article that Mr Myers believes that there was a Nazi genocide of the Jews – he typically and pedantically takes issue with the word. The complainant adds that Mr Myers has written many times about the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jews and that it is ridiculous and offensive to label him as ‘Holocaust denier’. The complainant states that no senior member of the Irish Jewish community has called him ‘a denier’.
In support of his complaint, the complainant submits the following:-
a) A copy of a statement issued by the Jewish Representative Council defending Mr. Myers from, inter alia, the claim that he had denied the Holocaust in an article eight years ago.
b) A copy of the Guardian newspaper’s correction to its earlier description of Mr. Myers as a Holocaust denier.
c) A copy of The Times of Israel published defence of Mr. Myers by the Jewish blogger, Mr. Jonathan Hoffman.
The complainant states that despite all of the above, the broadcaster still claims that it was correct to refer to Mr. Myers as having previously written a column in which he “denied the Holocaust”. The complainant states that this is, to quote the Jewish Representative Council, “an absolute distortion of the facts” and is based on the selective use of certain phrases taken out of context.
RTE’s response to the BAI is summarised as follows:
“The broadcaster states that the references to Mr. Myers in this context relate to articles written by Mr. Myers for the Irish Independent and Belfast Telegraph newspapers in 2009. In reaction to commentary on the articles following Mr. Myers’ final Sunday Times newspaper column, the Irish Independent immediately removed the article in question from its website.
The Belfast Telegraph had not, at the time of replying to the complainant, removed its version of the article. These are quotes taken directly from the article:-
“There was no holocaust (or Holocaust, as my computer software insists) and six million Jews were not murdered by the Third Reich. These two statements of mine are irrefutable truths.” “It is an offence in Germany to say that six million Jews did not die in the holocaust. Very well then, I am a criminal in Germany.” “I’m a Holocaust denier.”
“The broadcaster states that these are Mr. Myers’ own words. He may have then qualified his headline statements by then writing that there certainly was genocide waged against the Jews by the Nazis, in what he describes as “one of the most satanic operations in world history.”
The broadcaster maintains that if he is being referred to around the world as a Holocaust denier, it is because he described himself as such.
The broadcaster refers to the contents of this article as unarguable evidence that the statement by the presenter that Mr. Myers had “previously written a column in which he denied the Holocaust” was accurate and fair, did not misrepresent Mr. Myers and was not in any way misleading to listeners.
In its decision to uphold the complaint, the BAI said:
“While noting that Mr. Myers had described himself as a ‘Holocaust denier’ in a typically provocative newspaper article that he had written, it was evident from the article as a whole that his description did not in fact amount to a statement denying the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Rather, the article was a comment on how language is used and the criminalisation of individuals or groups who engage in Holocaust denial. In this context, the comments by the presenter were considered to lack fairness to Mr. Myers and both misrepresented his views in a manner which would likely mislead audiences as to his views. Accordingly, the complaint has been upheld.
A complaint about comments made by George Hook last September on his then High Noon show on Newstalk has also been upheld.
On September 8, 2017, Mr Hook had made certain comments in light of a court case concerning a sexual assault.
Mr Hook said:
“But when you look deeper into the story you have to ask certain questions. Why does a girl who just meets a fella in a bar go back to a hotel room? She’s only just barely met him …. then is surprised when somebody else comes into the room and rapes her.”
“Is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger? There is personal responsibility. You then of course read that she passed out in the toilet and when she woke up the guy was trying to rape her. There is a personal point of responsibility, because it’s your daughter and it’s my daughter.
“And what determines the daughter who goes out, gets drunk, passes out and is with strangers in a room and the daughter that goes out, stays half way sober and comes home. I don’t know … but there is a point of responsibility. The real issues nowadays and increasingly, is the question of the personal responsibility that young girls are taking for their own safety.”
The complaint to the BAI was made by Fiona O’Toole, who summarised her complaint as follows:
The complainant states that it was not appropriate for the presenter to blame an alleged
victim of sexual assault for the fact that she was raped. The complainant states that it is irrelevant that she chose to go back to a hotel room with one man; she should not be raped by a second.
The complainant expressing the opinion that the presenter believes that the victim is responsible for this assault is offensive and harmful. The complainant states that nobody would suggest that men who are mugged walking down Grafton Street in Dublinare responsible for being mugged and it is not appropriate for the presenter to blamewomen (and their parents) for rape rather than the rapist and their parents for how theyraised them.
Newstalk’s response to the BAI was…
The broadcaster states that the day following the initial broadcast, Saturday 9th September, the programme presenter and Newstalk issued an apology for the on-air remarks.
On Monday 11th September, the presenter, while on-air, issued a further, more detailed,
apology. The broadcaster states that an internal process within the station in relation to the comments was undertaken and, on Friday 15th September, it was confirmed that the
presenter had been suspended from his duties at the station while the process was
The broadcaster states that on the 22nd September it was confirmed that the
process which reviewed the circumstance that led to the presenter’s comments had
concluded and Newstalk confirmed that the presenter would be stepping down from his
lunchtime slot and would return in December when he will take on a new weekend show.
In upholding the complaint, the BAI stated:
“In the case of the programme that is the subject of the complaint, the Committee noted that it is aimed at an adult audience and the programme and presenter’s sometimes provocative style are well established and understood by the audience.
The Committee also recognises that it is permissible in broadcasting to deal with the question of personal responsibility in covering issues of crime and criminal behaviour. However, this topic was raised in the programme in the context of a then ongoing UK court case about rape and the issue of personal responsibility was described by the presenter as “the real issue” in this matter.
As such, the Committee considered that the manner and context of raising the issue of personal responsibility in the context of a specific case of alleged rape caused undue offence and there was a strong possibility of causing distress to audience members who might personally identify with this issue.
In considering this complaint, the Committee acknowledged that the broadcaster subsequently undertook remedial action and has accepted the substance and validity of the complaint.
It also noted that the presenter explicitly stated that he does not condone rape.
However, the broadcaster had a responsibility to take greater care to prevent the possibility of undue offence and harm, including taking timely corrective action where content is likely to have caused offence.
The Committee was of the view that the broadcaster had failed to take corrective action in a timely fashion, action which may have ameliorated the undue offence caused. Given this and given the content of the programme, the Committee has decided to uphold the complaint.
Five months after his sacking by the Sunday Times, columnist Kevin Myers appeared on RTÉ 1’s Claire Byrne Live to discuss his removal and the fall out.
Mr Myers was told he will never work for the Sunday Times again after he used a crude Jewish stereotype in an article on BBC pay.
The paper’s move was supported by Taoiseach Leo Vardkar.
Kevin Myers; “…Nobody has the right to say this man will not be employed again. No one can do that. And then what happened next was even worse. The Taoiseach came out and said that The Sunday Times action was wholly justified and so did the Táaaiste [Frances Fitzgerald].
Now Claire, I’m not like you. Nor the people out there. Nor the people at home. I chose to be Irish. I had a British passport initially. I chose. That was going to be my nationality, my identity.
And never in the history of the Free State, or the Republic and the Free State before, has a government sided instantly with a multinational against the interests of a citizen of that state. it has never happened before, since 1923. There was no consultation, no discussion, nothing. My reputation was destroyed.”
Claire Byrne: “Have you had any support of people in the media, in public life, in politics since all of this happened?”
Myers: “A very small amount of support from the media, apart from David Norris more recently, he was abroad at the time [of the sacking], none that I could speak of in public. Privately they’ve said what’s happened is a great shame but nobody in public has spoken out…”
Byrne: “You write very challenging things about women? You write that men work harder than women, men are more charismatic, you write that men get sick less frequently than women, men seldom get pregnant.”
Myers: “That was a joke. Of course.”
Byrne: “What about the rest of the stuff? Do you believe that men work harder than women?”
Myers: “The issue is am I allowed to say that? The issue is not my beliefs.The issue of freedom of speech is the real issue here. Otherwise you’re going to have one set of beliefs, uniform and compulsory across the entire media…are we allowed to differ from the politically correct consensus norm which now dominates the media.”
Kevin Myers will moderate a talk, entitled ‘How censorship stifles debate and undermines the tenets of free and democratic societies’.
Anne Sheridan, in the Limerick Leader, reports:
The talk will be given by Jodie Ginsberg, of the Index on Censorship, which publishes the work by censored writers and artists and campaigns for free expression worldwide…
David O’Brien, chief executive of Limerick Civic Trust, which has organised the series of talks, said he has not read Myers’ widely criticised article, entitled ‘Sorry, ladies – equal pay has to be earned’, but stressed their talks are about “encouraging debate and having opposing views”.
But Prof O’Connor [Prof Emeritus Pat O’Connor, of sociology and social policy, at University of Limerick] said her concern is that “with this platform, they are framing Kevin Myers as the defender of free speech by putting him in that position.
“I suspect that it is simply an attempt to drum up an audience by being controversial. In these sort of situations, the best thing one can do is to ignore.
“It’s not an acceptable position to say everyone is entitled to free speech if it stirs up hatred against any one group. It’s not an uncontested right,” said Prof O’Connor.
“I have no time for political correctness. I think if the heart is right, the lip can be forgiven. But it seems to be giving a platform to Kevin Myers, and legitimising opinions that many people found offensive.”
Prof O’Connor, a visiting Fellow at University College Dublin’s Geary Institute, said she won’t be attending the talk, as there were “too many crazy assumptions in his column”.
…“I have no time for political correctness. I think if the heart is right, the lip can be forgiven. But it seems to be giving a platform to Kevin Myers, and legitimising opinions that many people found offensive.”
…“He said men are more charismatic, and that is one of the reasons why they get ahead, but I’m afraid we all know an awful lot of boring men. Me thinks the lady doth protest too much. When there are as many mediocre women as mediocre men in the top jobs, we’ll have equality,” she said.
From top: The Stand with Eamon Dunphy podcast; Kevin Myers
Three weeks ago, Eamon Dunphy posted an interview he carried out with Kevin Myers for his podcast The Stand.
This was prior to the fallout of Mr Myers’ column in The Sunday Times on July 30 and his subsequent sacking for the same.
During the 71-minute interview they discussed The Irish Times and Mr Myers’s time in Northern Ireland, Beirut and Sarajevo.
He told how he wasn’t invited to Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the war memorial in memory of the Irish soldiers killed in World War I, in Islandbridge, Dublin; and how a journalism student told him he was warned not to mention Kevin Myers’ name if he wanted to proceed on his course; and how media/journalism courses in Ireland teach conformity.
He also lamented the lack of “good columnists” in Ireland under the age of 40, or even 50.
From the interview…
Eamon Dunphy: “Now you got the job of writing the Irishman’s Diary in The Irish Times which was very prestigious. You had some very amazing predecessors in that slot, you might tell us about. But it’s quite onerous because I think it’s three or four times a week?
Kevin Myers: “It was five times a week when I started.”
Dunphy: “Tell me who’d done it before.”
Myers: “Well, Patrick Campbell famously.”
Myers: “Not famous anymore. He was a very, very celebrated man in the BBC and a very funny man and, before that, or well, after him, there was Seamus Kelly whom I never knew. He had a reputation for being very irascible but perhaps that was because he was drunk every morning by 11am and he had terminal cancer for a long time, so that would make you irascible.”
“But, it was, I didn’t want to be a diarist, I didn’t want to be a columnist. It seemed to me to be onerous, too onerous. But it was something that was a marking in the absence of anyone else, somebody else, a journalist in the newsroom pool, would be given the diary to write. So I was doing, they were going down well. Douglas…”
Dunphy: “In journalistic parlance, just to make it clear, a marking is a gig.”
Myers: “Yeah. And, I…Douglas Gageby that then edited The Irish Times didn’t like me at all. And made it very evident that he didn’t like me. He didn’t want me to be employed by The Irish Times but the overwhelming impression, decision amongst his, opinion amongst his senior editors around him, I should be employed, he was emphatically against me being employed as a columnist but, again, there was no one else to do the job.”
Kevin Myers: “…I think I could have been treated with more dignity [by the Sunday Times] but I do understand. I too quickly said and an affirmative to a question I wasn’t expecting, I said ‘yes’. And I don’t think that’s quite right because anyone should have a second chance for making an error of judgment.
“You see I’ve come on air and I’m not fully prepared for what you’re going to throw at me. I haven’t slept in two nights and I’m…”
Sean O’Rourke: “It’s a very tough thing and, on a human level, I think people will empathise or sympathise with somebody losing, you’ve lost your livelihood?”
Myers: “Yes, I have. But I don’t want anyone else to lose their livelihood. Enough damage has been done. So, you know, it’s happened. I enjoyed working for The Sunday Times and I’m sorry this has happened. I did, I mean…”
O’Rourke: “But I mean even if, if there had been, and again, that’s noble of you to say it but if there are five or six people whose job it is to vet what people write for the paper, prior to it going to print, surely they have to be on the line aswell.”
Talk over each other
Myers: “Enough damage, enough misery has been caused. You see, you can have a perch, you can, and a lot of people would love a perch. A nice big witch hunt, lots of victims, lots of lives ruined, lots of mortgages…”
O’Rourke: “It’s called taking responsibility.”
Myers: “I’m taking responsibility for what I wrote. I can’t do anything for anybody else.”
O’Rourke: “OK, and the other thing that’s been much noted and much commented upon is that if there hadn’t been those references to two women presenters in the BBC, Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz, you would still be a columnist. And questions are being asked…”
Myers: “And, you know, that was just one single a line or two, that’s all.”
O’Rourke: “Yeah, but the question is being asked what about the way you would appear to routinely write material which is misogynistic…”
Myers: “It’s not misogynistic, no it’s not misogynistic. I am a critic of political feminism. I am not a misogynist. That’s a term that you might have been, I don’t think you would have used that term about me in different circumstances, Sean. It hasn’t routinely been used about me but it’s a simple way of labelling somebody and that means you don’t have to listen to what they’re saying.”
O’Rourke: “But in terms of why people get ahead professionally and why men more so than women do so, you suggest that a personnel department or a human resources department, as it’s now called, will tell you that ‘men usually work harder, get sick less frequently and seldom get pregnant. But most of all men tend to be more ambitious, they have that grey-backed testosterone-powered hierarchy-climbing id that feminised and egalitarian-obsessed legislatures are increasingly trying to legislate against’.”
Myers: “Yes, well that’s an observation I would have made on many occasions and I don’t think it would have been the object of such obloquy in different circumstances but I do believe that men and women behave very differently and men are driven by ambition and by urges that women don’t have, generally speaking.”
O’Rourke: “When you wrote as well, in the same column on Sunday, ‘a fairly average female columnist in 800 indignant words of smouldering mediocrity will, without leaving her keyboard, earn more than a cleaning lady or a checkout girl, what they would earn, in an entire week plus Sunday overtime’. Now why refer to a fairly average female columnist there?”
Myers: “Actually, because we’re talking about the context of equality. I don’t believe in equality, Sean. I’m not asking you questions. You’re asking me questions. I’m on this programme because Mary, your producer texted me this morning and she’s doing her professional job outside. None of us is equal to one another. I’m arguing in, repeatedly, over the decades…”
O’Rourke: “Why put in the word, if you just wrote ‘a fairly average columnist in 800 indignant words’, I mean why does it have to be a ‘female columnist’?”
Myers: “Because I’m talking about the issue of female equality when women, when feminists talk about, within the BBC, talking about how they should be equal with the men, well actually nobody’s equal so the women who’s making the tea or cleaning the floors or whatever, is not equal to the star presenter. And it just, that was the issue, the context of that…”
O’Rourke: “That applies equally to male as well as female…”
Myers: “It does absolutely. But you see you can actually Sean, without any problem, got through line by line and paragraph by paragraph in that thing and find..”
O’Rourke: “OK, well I want to do one more, actually, if I may, and I don’t want to labour the point. But you say: ‘equality is a unicorn, don’t wait for it or look for favours because of your chromosome count. Get what you can with whatever talents you have and ask yourself how many women are billionaires, chess players, grandmasters, mathematicians, there’s a connection: mastery of money usually requires singular drive, ruthless logic and instant arctic cold arithmetic’. Now, it’s very easy to conclude, reading that paragraph or most of a paragraph that you actually believe that women are inferior to men.”
Myers: “Well you might have come to that conclusion. If I thought that, I would be an idiot. And I’m sorry that I’ve given that impression but I’ve already told you that I have many weaknesses and one of my weaknesses is a weakness for facile terminology like that. If it irritates people then you’re losing them, you lose them as readers or listeners or whatever. Now, the way you’ve read that out to me, and to your audience, makes me sound like a very unpleasant person. But I’m not a very unpleasant person. You’ve just taken any single paragraph…”
O’Rourke: “By the way, it is the duty of a columnist, I would argue and I’m sure you would as well, occasionally, to be unpleasant.”
Myers: “It is but the point is a single paragraph taken like that, out of context, makes me sound like a villain. But there are very few women mathematicians, there are very few women grand chess masters, there’s on in the top 100, that’s a fact.”
O’Rourke: “Maybe they have better things to be doing.”
Myers: “Well that’s the point. That is the point. Now if I had said that, it would be called misogyny.”
O’Rourke: “Now there’s a lot of traffic on our text line [reads out text] “Does Mr Myers apologise for calling the children of single mothers ‘bastards?’.”
Myers: “Well I don;t know why she’s asking that..Is that a woman asking that? I wrote an entire column on that. The column appeared on a Tuesday by Thursday I had written a full retraction and a full and abject apology in which the terms abject and contrite were the two words I used at the end. I knew I had done a bad thing.”
O’Rourke: “Ruth Walsh , I’m not sure if it’s our former journalistic colleague Ruth Walsh is tweeting to observe: ‘Kevin Myers in person is a very likeable but he has made too many throw away remarks over the years. He is not a rookie journalist’.”
Myers: “Well, I’m not going to argue with that.”
O’Rourke: “I’m wondering how do you go about rebuilding or do you at this stage…”
Myers: “Very hard to say how I can say I can recover from this. Personally I’m in a very bad way which is fine, people expect you to suffer if they give you a good kicking and that’s happening. I’m not sure if there’s any redemption for me now which will give a lot of people satisfaction.”
O’Rourke: “And if they read the Independent today, Gerard O’Regan their former editor is writing about how unnecessarily difficult it was for him as an editor to deal with you. I suppose brilliant people are often difficult people to deal with. It could be said you long ago burnt your bridges in the Irish Times, then the Independent and now the Sunday Times…”
Myers: “I didn’t burn my bridges in the irish Times. I left the irish Times. The irish Times didn’t ask me to leave and they actually tried very hard for me to stay. The Irish Independent declined to renew my contract when it was up but there was no strained feelings there. It didn’t happen and the Sunday Times took me on. We now know the Sunday Times relationship is over.”
O’Rourke: “You don’t think there’s any way to argue your way back in there by maybe writing a fresh column. Would you like to be given space to write 750 or a thousand words just to state your position not necessarily pleading for your job back.”
Myers: well there’s no question the Sunday Times are taking me on as far as I can see. Martin Ivens, the editor I amtold – I haven’t been reading stuff online as I haven’t got the constitution to take all that hatred that exists online – that I will never be employed by the Sunday Times in any guise in the future so I have to accept him on his word.
O’Rourke: “In your defence there is the statement issued by Maurice Cohen, chair of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland in which he says branding Kevin Myers as either an anti-semite or a Holocaust denier is an absolute distortion of the facts but he does go on to take issue with…”
Myers: “All the Jews have. I accept that. I was wrong. It was stupid of me this encapsulation of this quite big issue in a single sentence or half a sentence. It’s done me terminal damage but that’s that. It’s what happens in life these days.
O’Rourke: “Would there have been a sense though, subconsciously or otherwise, that I can toss out these lines and observations and sure look there’s half a dozen people to rein me in if I go overboard and I can push the boundaries, push the boundaries..
Myers: “I am the Master of my soul and the author of my own misfortune. I cannot blame anyone else”
O’Rourke: “What would you say to Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman this morning?”
Myers: “I am very, very sorry. I really mean this because I’m not rescuing anything. It’s over for me professionally as far as I can see. I am very, very sorry that I should have so offended them and I do utter an apology not for any reason other than out of genuine contrition for the hurt I caused them but I did so out of respect for the religion they come from and for the religion I still hold in regard, particularly the irish members of that religion who have been so forthright in their defence of me generally. Not just Maurice [Cohen]. Others who have been contacting me privately and I am so grateful for their support.”
O’Rourke: “Kevin Myers, thank you for coming in today.”
Kevin Myers (inset) whose article in the Sunday Times led to his sacking yesterday
Further to the sacking of Kevin Myers from the Sunday Times…
…It has been asked, quite reasonably, why on earth none of the editors saw a problem before publishing the piece.
The answer is that they’ve never seen a problem with his work before or, if they did, thought the potential eyeball attention outweighed the risk. Major newspapers have been publishing Myers for years, and he has always said the same kinds of things….
…We live in an age in which there is a great deal of moral panic about online abuse. It isn’t moral panic because there is no such abuse, but because the focus on social media is a type of displacement and scapegoating.
National newspapers have been commodifying racist, sexist and homophobic spite and bullying for years. They have created a decrepit caste of ghastly celebrities, whose fame is built entirely on who they victimise for a living.
And as we are learning, the broadsheets are often no better than the tabloids—indeed, by offering a patina of legitimacy to boorish and self-serving sadists, they may be even worse.
Yet the newspapers and news broadcasters, globally, are in decline. Audiences are falling, revenues are falling and, crucially, trust in journalists and outlets— even the broadsheets—has plummeted. The age of the Internet, signalling the decline of six hundred years of print culture, has also ended the ideological monopolies of print empires.
As the British press discovered to its cost at the last election, this process is much more accelerated here than elsewhere. The fact that even the ‘serious’ press makes much of its coin out of such mediocre malice, is one reason why.
On the same day that Sunday Times columnist Kevin Myers’ article was removed from the Sunday Times website, an apology was issued and it was announced that Mr Myers will not write for the newspaper again…
Rabbi Julia Neuberger and Sunday Times columnist, Kevin Myers, sit next to each other at the West Cork History Festival in Skibbereen.
Readers may wish to note the apologies issued yesterday by Martin Ivens, editor of The Sunday Times; and Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of the Irish edition of The Sunday Times, following the publication, and subsequent removal of Kevin Myers’ article…