Owen Jones, Julia Hartley-Brewer Row Over Sky News Orlando Shootings Walk-Off Explodes On Twitter

The media personalities accuse one other of lies.

14/06/2016 11:13 | Updated 14 June 2016
Sky News
Owen Jones storms off the set of the Sky Papers review Sunday night

Julia Hartley-Brewer has accused Owen Jones "and his hate-mob" of shutting down free speech over the Orlando massacre, suggesting that the left-wing commentator may have "more in common with Islamic State than he thinks".

In a piece for the Daily Telegraph, the radio presenter hit back at criticisms levelled at her after Jones stormed off the set of a Sky News paper review on Sunday night, angry that he felt the homophobic nature of the attack which left 49 people dead in a gay nightclub was being downplayed.

Despite Jones making clear his reasons for walking out on the set, in a Guardian piece which does not actually mention Hartley-Brewer by name, the talkRADIO host said she was "still at a loss as to what Owen Jones found so disgusting".

"If Owen Jones wants to live in a world where people can only say what is on the officially approved list of platitudes, then perhaps he has more in common with Islamic State than he thinks," she wrote on Tuesday.

Hartley-Brewer also saidSky News should not have issued a statement that expressed "regret" at what happened, saying: "Sky News have chosen to try to dampen down the hysteria by releasing an apology for any offence caused by Mark Longhurst. I believe they were quite wrong to be bullied into doing this."

Hartley-Brewer allowed the debate to spill out onto Twitter, trailing her column as a response to Jones' "tantrum on Sky News" and his "lies". 

Jones responded telling Hartley-Brewer to retract "a lie" over whether or not he regretted omitting her name.

That was the end of the row though, with Hartley-Brewer later releasing some details about what was in the text message exchange between the two, suggesting she had repeatedly asked Jones to intervene to stop the Twitter abuse being levelled at her.

Jones tweeted yesterday morning calling for people to "lay off" Hartley-Brewer, more than 10 hours after the incident on Sky News.

Hartley-Brewer has been at the centre of a backlash on social media over the Sky News segment, with MP Diane Abbott telling her she was "in denial" over the homophobic nature of the attack at Pulse, the gay nightclub in Florida.

Patrick Studwick, the LGBT editor of BuzzFeed UK, posted an email exchange to his timeline explaining why he was now refusing to speak to the radio host.

During the segment on Sky News on Sunday night, Jones had stressed the importance of “calling out” the attack for what it was - a homophobic crime. 

"Can we just be clear, because you say it’s lunatics and the rest of it, if he went into a synagogue and killed innocent Jewish people... we call it out for what it is.

"This person is a homophobic terrorist, whatever else he is,” adding: “At the end of the day this was a homophobic crime, as well as terrorism and it has to be called out."

The incident led Sky News presenter Mark Longhurst to express "regret" at what happened saying: "I absolutely accept the atrocity in Florida was, of course, an attack on LGBT people, but  I was also trying to reflect what was on the newspaper front pages. It was never my intention to offend Owen Jones and I very much look forward to working with him again in future."

Jones described the statement over the programme, which has seen at least 57 complaints to Ofcom, as "the definition of a non-apology".


Hartley-Brewer, who previously said she would "not check my white straight privilege at the door" after the row, claimed Longhurst and Sky News were "bullied" into the statement, which she described as an apology. 

She continued: "Owen Jones does not deserve an apology and he certainly won’t be getting one from me.

"Owen seems to think that the hate-fest against me and against Mark Longhurst is the proof that he was right. It isn’t.

 She also said Jones and others on the Left were "putting their heads in the sand about the "unquestionable fact that Islam has a problem with homophobia and that this problem lies not just within the Islamic State extremists, but among many ordinary moderate Muslim people living in Britain and other western countries".

The initial row fuelled  debate around acknowledging the homophobic nature of the attack. Veteran LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told The Mirror: "The line of questioning put to Owen Jones would never have been put to a black or Jewish person if one of their venues had been attacked in this way."

The argument prompted other people in the media to intervene with their thoughts, both for and against Hartley-Brewer.

MailOnline columnist Katie Hopkins, who tends to have the most strident opinions of anyone on Fleet Street, sided against Jones, saying he was "caught in a fault-line of his own making".

She ominously advertised her column on the subject was "coming soon".

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Jones said his storming off was “an instinctive reaction to an unpleasant and untenable situation”.

“If a terrorist with a track record of expressing hatred of and disgust at Jewish people had walked into a synagogue and murdered 50 Jewish people, we would rightly describe it as both terrorism and an anti-Semitic attack,” he wrote.

“If a Jewish guest on television had tried to describe it as such, it would be disgraceful if they were not only contradicted, but shouted down as they did so. But this is what happened on Sky News with a gay man talking about the mass murder of LGBT people.”

He added: “It is possible for an atrocity to be more than one thing at the same time. You are not compelled to select one option or the other. Life – with both its horrors and its joys – is incredibly complicated, and we have a rich language able to capture its complexities.”

On her TalkRadio show on Monday, Hartley-Brewer said she had received a barrage of abuse after what happened but said she would not “check my white straight privilege at the door”.

“I will not check my white straight privilege at the door. I will speak as I find and I will always speak as I find because I live, thank God, in a free, Western, liberal democracy,” she told her listeners.

She denied she was a “homophobe” as tweets she received suggested.

“I have spent most of the night getting abuse from people who claim that I’m homophobic for stating repeatedly that this was a homophobic attack and how awful it was but apparently I didn’t use exactly the right form of words,” she said.

“Owen is a very good friend... He took exception to something the host said. 

“We repeatedly stated it that [the shooting] was a homophobic attack. We were trying to have a debate about why this man had been motivated to make a homophobic attack. 

Suggest a correction