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Myers apologises to Jewish presenters Feltz and Winkleman

Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman are among the BBC's highest-paid female stars

A Sunday Times columnist has apologised to Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman after suggesting they earned high salaries because they were Jewish.

Kevin Myers said he was "very, very sorry" for offending the broadcasters and said he was genuinely contrite.

Mr Myers, whom the paper has said it would not commission again, told Irish broadcaster RTÉ he had "uttered those words out of respect for the religion".

His article on BBC equal pay was in the paper's Irish edition and online.

He said it was "over for him professionally", adding that he was both the author of the article and his own misfortunes.

"I'm the master of my soul and I must answer for what I have done," he said in a radio interview with presenter Sean O'Rourke. "I cannot blame anybody else."

'Throwaway line'

Mr Myers insisted he was neither anti-Semitic nor a misogynist.

"I've got serious professional flaws. I'm not sure that anyone is going to see those professional flaws in future, because I'm not sure I have a career in which to show them," he said.

One of his flaws was to deal with major issues in throwaway lines, he added.

"The throwaway line is so often my pitfall," he said, blaming his own "stupidity".

Image copyright RTE
Image caption Mr Myers said his career was over and he was not trying to rescue it by apologising

Asked if the Sunday Times was right to fire him, he replied: "Yeah. I think so," although he felt that the manner in which the matter was handled could have been better.

Mr Myers said he had made an error of judgement. Since it happened, he said, he had not slept, had lost his livelihood and was "in a very bad way".

"I'm not sure if there is any redemption for me now which will give a lot of people satisfaction," he added.

Feltz described the article as "so obviously racist it's surprisingly hurtful".

The piece was taken down following anger on social media and a formal complaint from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism to press regulator Ipso.

'Inadvertently stumbled'

Mr Myers' column - entitled "Sorry, ladies - equal pay has to be earned" - was published last Sunday and centred on the BBC gender pay row.

Commenting that two of the best-paid presenters, Winkleman and Feltz, were Jewish, Mr Myers wrote: "Good for them.

"Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price, which is the most useful measure there is of inveterate, lost-with-all-hands stupidity."

Image caption The article has been removed following outcry at its content

In the article, he also argued that male presenters might earn more because they "work harder, get sick less frequently and seldom get pregnant".

Sunday Times editor Martin Ivens said the piece should not have been published.

Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of the Sunday Times Ireland, said he took "full responsibility", adding: "This newspaper abhors anti-Semitism and did not intend to cause offence to Jewish people."

However, an Irish Jewish leader has defended Mr Myers.

Maurice Cohen, from the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland, said Mr Myers "inadvertently stumbled into an anti-Semitic trope".

"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," he said.

"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 anti-Semite."

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