Kevin Myers has become further engulfed in an anti-semitism firestorm of his own making after giving a car-crash interview with the BBC in which he attempted to explain his position following his sacking from the Irish Sunday Times.
In a bizarre interview on BBC 5 Live, Myers, whose column for the Times was branded sexist and anti-Semitic, professed to be “a great admirer of Jews” and repeatedly referred to “characteristics” of Jewish people which mean they “make the most of what they are intellectually and morally”.
After explaining to host Emma Barnett that his career is in “ruins” and his “reputation is in tatters”, Myers tried to explain away his remarks: “I think that the Jewish people have a tradition of exploring their talents and making the most of them.
“These are not confined to financial acumen, it’s in the entire range of human endeavour.
“So many musicians around the world, from which you can expect to make very little money for the most part, are Jewish. This requires huge amounts of hard work. A good musician will have done thousands and thousands of hours of practice for very little financial return but it is an intellectual and moral endeavour for musicians.
“Mathematicians, chess players and bankers. I’m more than happy to deal with the role of Jews in banking because the primary currency of banking is not money, it’s honesty, reliability and integrity and unless you have those characteristics as a bank, you will not survive. One of the reasons why the great banks of the world that have survived, so many of them are Jewish, is because they exhibit these characteristics.”
Myers said he had tried to Google how many Jewish people had won Nobel Prizes before coming on air.
Despite his internet connection failing him, Myers explained: “Jews don’t get Nobel Prizes because of favouritism in Norway and Sweden towards them or because the committee is Jewish, it’s because they have distinguished themselves in so many walks of life. This is a characteristic of Jewish people, an admirable characteristic.”
Barnett responded: “You say it’s an admirable characteristic and yet it’s a slur. It’s a well-known trope to link Jews’ ability to either make money or extract money from people. It’s the same sort of evidence and it’s the same sort of lines that Hitler used to use. That Shakespeare used when writing Shylock’s characters, that Goebbels relied on when creating caricatures of Jews.”
In the widely-condemned column titled “Sorry ladies - equal pay has to be earned”, Myers criticised “the tiresome monotone consensus of the commentariat, all wailing and shrieking as one about how hard done by are the women of the BBC”.
He then went on to single out two Jewish BBC presenters, saying: “I note that two of the best-paid women presenters in the BBC - Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz, with whose, no doubt, staring work I am tragically unacquainted - are Jewish.
“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. I wonder who are their agents? If they’re the same ones that negotiated the pay for the women on the lower scales, then maybe the latter have found their true value in the marketplace.”
Barnett took him to task over both the column and his subsequent attempt to explain it, telling him the fact that he had apologised over the column was different.
She continued: “It is one of my personal pet hates when people apologise for a hatred and then move on to justify why they put that point out there in the first place.
“The reality is you’ve come on this radio programme to apologise, there is interest in your doing that.
“But you have then gone on to accuse the people who have said what they have said about you since that article of being part of some sort of campaign against you
“You have then gone on to say you tried to Google how many Jews won the Nobel Prizes and explain why Jews have a tradition of exploiting their talents and making the most of what they have. It does not sound like your apology is for what you wrote.”
When asked if he thought Barnett had ”some special powers as a Jewish broadcaster to get paid better than my colleagues who aren’t of the same faith”, he shot back: “I didn’t know you were Jewish and I don’t have any opinion abut how much you earn. It’s not an issue whether you’re Jewish or not, it doesn’t enter my head.
“I didn’t do it out of anti-Semitism. It’s very difficult for you to understand, it’s out of an esteem for the way Jewish people behave that maximise your potential. Nobody else is going to do it for you, it’s something that you have to do yourself. This is true for us all. It’s a characteristic of the Jewish tradition. You must maximise yourself.”
Myers received little appreciation for his apology, with those on social media suggesting the journalist had simply dug himself into a deeper hole.