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Quentin Letts Apologises After Andrew Marr's Wife, Jackie Ashley, Attacks Mocking Daily Mail Column

'What a great signal to disabled people'.

09/05/2016 13:18 | Updated 13 May 2016

A high profile Daily Mail columnist has apologised for apparently mocking the Andrew Marr's disability after his near-fatal stroke.

Quentin Letts referred to the former BBC Political Editor, who hosts a Sunday Morning politics show, as "Captain Hop-along" who throws "his arm about like a tipsy conductor".

Marr suffered a stroke in 2013 at the age of 53 that left him unable to present his show for eight months and barely able to use his left arm.

The article triggered outrage and Letts' name began trending on Twitter as people reacted.

Marr's wife Jackie Ashley, a journalist and broadcaster had sarcastically called the article "a great signal to disabled people".

She also retweeted a tweet that said: "The kind of 'journalism' that shames me as a journalist. The disgusting mocking of a stroke sufferer."

Letts was writing about the debut of Peston On Sunday, the new rival to Marr's show hosted by ITV Political Editor Robert Peston.

"Sunday mornings just became a little madder and more metropolitan. Not only do we have Andrew ‘Captain Hop-Along’ Marr growling away on BBC1, throwing his arm about like a tipsy conductor," Letts wrote. 

"Now, immediately afterwards on ITV, we have another 50-something London Leftie, Robert Peston, practically dancing the Charleston and blowing kisses to make us watch his latest antics."

On Monday, Letts tweeted an apology, calling his comment "horrid" and offering "apologies to all concerned and upset".

Guardian columnist Roy Greenslade wrote that Letts had "overstepped the mark and should apologise".

"I wonder whether Quentin Letts might, on reflection, view his description of Andrew Marr as being in very doubtful taste," Greenslade wrote.

"Sure, the after-effects of the stroke suffered by Marr in January 2013 are evident. But is it necessary to lampoon him for that?

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"I don’t want to come off all namby-pamby. I understand that no one should be beyond criticism and that Letts was exercising his right to press freedom. But really Quentin, that was a graceless remark."

One person compared Letts' comment to the time Donald Trump, the preposterous billionaire turned presumptive presidential nominee, infamously mocked the disability of an American journalist.

Another pointed out that it was bizarre of Letts to mock Marr over a disability when he himself had raised a child with autism.

Reviewing a BBC drama about an autistic child in March, Letts wrote: "The A Word pierced me to the quick — a terrible, stabbing flashback.

"Fourteen years ago my wife and I went through the same ordeal when we confronted the fact that our four-year-old son Claud was not quite like other children.

"We love him dearly, as we love all our children, but now he is able to return that love.

"He even hugs his mother, which I am told not all teenage boys do. There may be ‘no cure’ for autism but, I tell you, a hug heals many of its wounds."

Doug Peters/Doug Peters
Jackie Ashley and Andrew Marr in 2009

Writing in The Guardian last year, Ashley discussed her husband's "long, slow path to recovery" from his stroke two years earlier.

She described how he still needed four physiotherapy sessions a week, walks with a limp and could barely use his left arm.

She wrote: "Not an hour goes by when Andrew isn’t acutely conscious of what happened.

"There are bad days, but mostly he insists he has been lucky – above all because he can do what he loves. Had he been a plumber or a surgeon, the story would be very different."

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