Critics divided over 'lenient' Galliano verdict

By Jennifer Lipman, September 9, 2011
John Galliano

John Galliano

The relatively lenient sentence handed to disgraced designer John Galliano on Thursday has received mixed reactions.

The former Dior chief designer was convicted of antisemitic and racist behaviour and given a 6,000 euro suspended fine, which he will have to pay only if he reoffebds within five years.

However he was not jailed and in reality will only have to pay damages of a euro to each plaintiff, as well as the court fees of the anti-racism groups who took him to court.

To some, the guilty verdict was a recognition of his unacceptable conduct, which including a rant about his love for Hitler and an incident where he attacked a woman as a "dirty Jew".

But other commentators expressed concern that he could return to the fashion fold, less than a year after he was dismissed from the French fashion house following a strong condemnation by its celebrity face Natalie Portman.

The president of the European Jewish Congress said the mere "slap on the wrist" sent the wrong message to those who used hate speech.

"It is outrageous," said Moshe Kantor. "This sentence demonstrates that there appears to be a culture of impunity in the entertainment world."

"It is time that the entertainment world became more serious about hate speech, and those who spout intolerance and bigotry should immediately be rejected by the industry and treated like the pariah their comments deserve."

In contrast, Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said the punishment was fitting. "It is up to him to make amends to the community he demeaned and to the public at large," they said.

But they also said that his earlier apology was not sufficient.

"Especially now when antisemitism has become fashionable, it is important to emphasise that a cleverly worded press release is not sufficient. If John Galliano is truly sorry for what he did, only his future deeds will tell us how sincere he is."

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, welcomed the verdict. She said it sent "a clear signal that such behaviour is completely unacceptable".

Jewish fashion writer Lisa Armstrong, writing in the Telegraph, said his career could be revived, but only if he kept "schtum".

"Notoriety can turn a quick buck in most industries these days, and expensive labels are no exception," she wrote. "Even so, evidence of humble pie will be required."

Meanwhile, it appears those in charge of Dior are determined to move on from the scandal of the last year. They are rumoured to have appointed Jewish designer Marc Jacobs, currently creative director of Louis Vuitton, to take on the vacant chief designer role.

Last updated: 3:56pm, September 9 2011