Myers apologises to Jewish presenters Feltz and Winkleman

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Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman are among the BBC’s highest-paid female stars

A Sunday Times columnist has apologised to Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman after suggesting they earned high salaries because they were Jewish.

Kevin Myers said he was “very, very sorry” for offending the broadcasters and said he was genuinely contrite.

Mr Myers, whom the paper has said it would not commission again, told Irish broadcaster RTÉ he had “uttered those words out of respect for the religion”.

His article on BBC equal pay was in the paper’s Irish edition and online.

He said it was “over for him professionally”, adding that he was both the author of the article and his own misfortunes.

“I’m the master of my soul and I must answer for what I have done,” he said in a radio interview with presenter Sean O’Rourke. “I cannot blame anybody else.”

Mr Myers insisted he was neither anti-Semitic nor a misogynist and apologised to both women.

“I’ve got serious professional flaws. I’m not sure that anyone is going to see those professional flaws in future, because I’m not sure I have a career in which to show them,” he said.

One of his flaws was to deal with major issues in throwaway lines, he added.

“The throwaway line is so often my pitfall, my downfall,” he said, blaming his own “stupidity”.

Asked if the Sunday Times were right to fire him, he replied: “Yeah. I think so,” although he felt that the manner in which the matter was handled could have been better.

Mr Myers said he had made an error of judgement. Since it happened, he said, he had not slept in two nights. He had lost his livelihood and was “in a very bad way”.

“I’m not sure if there is any redemption for me now which will give a lot of people satisfaction…”

He said: “It’s over for me professionally as far as I can see. I am really really sorry”.

Feltz described the article as “so obviously racist it’s surprisingly hurtful“.

The piece was taken down following anger on social media and a formal complaint from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism to press regulator Ipso.

‘Inadvertently stumbled’

Mr Myers’ column – entitled “Sorry, ladies – equal pay has to be earned” – was published last Sunday and centred on the BBC gender pay row.

Commenting that two of the best-paid presenters, Winkleman and Feltz, were Jewish, Mr Myers wrote: “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.”

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Mr Myers said his career was over and he was not trying to rescue it by apologising

In the article, he also argued that male presenters might earn more because they “work harder, get sick less frequently and seldom get pregnant”.

Sunday Times editor Martin Ivens said the piece should not have been published.

Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of the Sunday Times Ireland, said he took “full responsibility”, adding: “This newspaper abhors anti-Semitism and did not intend to cause offence to Jewish people.”

However, an Irish Jewish leader has defended Mr Myers.

Maurice Cohen, from the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland, said Mr Myers “inadvertently stumbled into an anti-Semitic trope”.

“More than any other Irish journalist he has written columns about details of the Holocaust over the last three decades that would not otherwise have been known by a substantial Irish audience,” he said.

“Yes, Kevin ought to have known that his bringing the religion of the two BBC presenters into his writings on Sunday would cause concern and upset and that it was both unnecessary and bound to be misunderstood.

“But the larger picture is that Kevin, who up until now was a respected columnist, has a particular curmudgeonly, cranky, idiosyncratic style. We, who have been reading Kevin’s work over many years and those who know him personally, know that while this was a real error of judgement on his part, also know that he is not an anti-Semite.”

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