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Liverpool mayor: Sack Kelvin MacKenzie over Barkley article

Kelvin MacKenzie Image copyright PA
Image caption MacKenzie says it was "beyond parody" to call his article racist

The mayor of Liverpool has called for the sacking of the Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie, saying his article about Everton footballer Ross Barkley was a "disgrace" and a "slur" on the city.

The piece compared the midfielder to a "gorilla" and said men in Liverpool on his pay level were "drug dealers".

Police are probing whether the comments amount to a "racial hate crime".

MacKenzie says he was unaware Barkley had a Nigerian-born grandfather and denied the column was "racist".

The publisher of the Sun, News UK, has suspended MacKenzie.

Apologising "for the offence caused", it said it also was "unaware of Barkley's heritage".

It added: "The views expressed by Kelvin MacKenzie about the people of Liverpool were wrong, unfunny and are not the view of the paper."

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said he had reported the article to the police for a "racial slur".

He tweeted to say he had given a statement to Merseyside Police and reported the article to the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

"Vindictive streak"

Mr Anderson has urged other news organisations not to employ MacKenzie.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The article about Barkley has been removed from the Sun's website

He accused MacKenzie, who was editor of the Sun when it published an inaccurate front-page article in the aftermath of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which 96 people died, of having a "vendetta" and a "vindictive streak" towards the city.

"An apology from MacKenzie, if we were to get one, is simply not enough - the people of Liverpool know just how little they mean," he said.

Barkley, 23, was punched in a Liverpool bar last weekend in what his lawyer described as an "unprovoked attack".

In the article, which has since been taken off the Sun's website, MacKenzie said:

  • Barkley is "one of our dimmest footballers", also calling him "thick".
  • His eyes make him "certain not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody at home", adding: "I get a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo."
  • Men with similar "pay packets" in Liverpool are "drug dealers" and in prison.

Alongside the article, the Sun published adjoining pictures of Barkley and a gorilla on their website with the caption "Could Everton's Ross Barkley represent the missing link between man and beast?" The picture was later removed.

'Beyond parody'

This Saturday, 15 April, marks the 28th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

Last year's landmark Hillsborough inquests recorded that the 96 fans were unlawfully killed and that Liverpool supporters at the FA Cup semi-final had played no role in causing the tragedy.

In 2012, MacKenzie apologised for the article about Hillsborough which claimed Liverpool fans were to blame.

MacKenzie has said it was "beyond parody" to call his article racist, but Mr Anderson said he was a "parody of a journalist".

He said: "It's a bit rich for him to describe my comments or other people who know of his descent as [beyond] parody or not fair.

"We did, and it's not my fault that he is ignorant of that fact when it's been in the national press about whether he could play for Nigeria or England."

He said to compare Barkley to a gorilla was an "utter disgrace" while his comments on Liverpool were a "slur again on the city".

Mr Anderson called on Everton to ban the Sun's journalists from its matches and grounds and for supporters to protest at the club's match against Burnley later.

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