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Irish Jewish leader defends Sunday Times journalist sacked for antisemitic slur

The chair of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland insists Kevin Myers is not antisemitic, after controversial comment referencing Claudia Winkelman and Vanessa Feltz

    Kevin Myers

    Representatives of the Irish Jewish community have defended the journalist who was fired after including an antisemitic trope on BBC pay.

    The Sunday Times fired Kevin Myers yesterday, after its Irish edition included a piece by him on the corporation’s gender pay gap.

    As well as making several references to women’s inferior work ethic, he noted that the BBC’s two highest paid female stars were Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman, two Jewish women.

    Mr Myers wrote: “Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price".

    Maurice Cohen, chair of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland, insisted Mr Myers was not antisemitic, and had “inadvertently stumbled into an antisemitic trope”.

    In a statement, Mr Cohen 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 antisemite”.

    Mr Cohen also appeared to reference another article of Mr Myers, from 2009, which was also shared widely on social media on Sunday. It had the title “I’m a holocaust denier, but I also believed Hitler planned the extermination of the Jewish people”.

    Mr Myers went on to argue that because the word “Holocaust” referred to bodies that were completely burned, and hundreds of thousands of Jews were shot”, the genocide should not be called a Holocaust.

    “Branding Kevin Myers as either an antisemite or a Holocaust denier is an absolute distortion of the facts”, said Mr Cohen.

    “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.

    “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.

    “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”.

    Ms Feltz has said she was “extremely upset” by Mr Myers’s article.

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