A major Jewish organization in Ireland has come to the defense of a journalist who was fired for making what was perceived as an anti-Semitic trope in a recent column on the gender pay gap.
The Sunday Times fired Kevin Myers after he suggested that female BBC presenters Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman were successful in negotiating higher salaries because they are Jewish.
In the offending column, entitled “Sorry ladies — equal pay has to be earned,” Myers wrote: “Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price.”
The piece was swiftly removed from the The Sunday Times website, and the newspaper issued an apology for its “error in judgement” in letting the column run. In reports on the column, UK media noted that in a 2009 piece for the Irish Independent, Myers had written: “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.”
But on Monday, the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland said that branding Myers an anti-Semite or Holocaust-denier was “an absolute distortion of the facts.”
“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,” Council chairman Maurice Cohen said in a statement, according to The Irish Times.
Cohen insisted that Myers was not racist against Jews, but in his “curmudgeonly, cranky, idiosyncratic style” had “inadvertently stumbled into an anti-Semitic trope.”
While he called the remark “a real error of judgement,” and reprimanded Myers for failing to consider that might cause “concern and upset,” Cohen slammed the media for its “misleading” coverage of the incident.
“The knee-jerk responses from those outside Ireland appear to care little for facts and pass on (along with some media outlets) falsehoods about his previous writings without verification,” Cohen wrote. “This has been exacerbated by a thoroughly misleading headline being sent around the world that is wholly unrepresentative of the article to which it refers.”
Cohen went on to defend Myers against accusations of Holocaust denial stemming from his controversial 2009 column, which was titled: “I’m a holocaust denier, but I also believed Hitler planned the extermination of the Jewish people.”
He added that Myers in that column was arguing against using the word “Holocaust” to describe the genocide of European Jewry in Nazi Germany, because, Myers claimed, the term refers to burned bodies, and many Jews were shot dead and not murdered in gas chambers.