Veteran Israeli journalist Yaron London has drawn harsh criticism from female lawmakers and others, with some calling for his firing, after he admitted on live television having groped a woman in an elevator over a decade ago and repeatedly refused to apologize.
The Kan public broadcaster subsequently rebuked London and said it would seek clarification of his comments.
On his “Geula and London” show on Tuesday, the longtime TV presenter recalled how he touched a woman’s breast after she patted his stomach without permission.
“I was in an elevator in a high rise building, and there was a woman [there with me] who looked like she was a lawyer,” he told co-host Geula Even-Sa’ar. “We were alone in the elevator, and during the ride, she patted me on my [protruding] stomach and said: ‘London, what’s this?’ So I put my hand on her breast, and told her: this also isn’t what it used to be.'”
During his telling of the story, London leaned over to pat Even-Sa’ar’s stomach to demonstrate the woman’s interaction with him. Even-Sa’ar called London’s behavior “shocking.”
London’s remarks drew immediate condemnation from the public, with many social media users pointing out that touching a woman’s breast without permission amounted to sexual assault, which is a criminal offense in Israel.
Addressing the mounting backlash Tuesday night, London told Channel 12 that he would not apologize for the incident. “It’s a nice story, but I don’t feel like quibbling.”
On Wednesday morning, London doubled down on his refusal to apologize in an interview with the 103 FM radio station, but said he would not attempt a similar stunt now.
“I suppose I wouldn’t do that now because I’ve gotten old,” the 78-year-old journalist said. “This was 15-20 years ago, and nowadays, a strong woman who does Pilates would punch me in the chin. I don’t take unnecessary risks.”
Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev slammed London, and called for him to be removed from the popular show on Kan.
“It’s enough, Yaron London has to go,” Regev tweeted. “You really don’t see the difference between patting someone’s stomach and touching a woman’s breast?”
She said that if London did not step down voluntarily, Kan should immediately suspend him to prevent him from “continuing to pollute public discourse in the media with taxpayers’ money.”
Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel also called on Kan to suspend London in light of his remarks. “There’s no room for those who haven’t internalized the moral revolution the world has undergone.”
“Kan, how is it possible that we have yet to hear of London’s suspension or dismissal?” she tweeted.
On Wednesday, Kan issued a statement calling London’s comments “unacceptable,” and said it would seek clarification about the incident from its longtime journalist.