A former equalities chief has accused Liverpool of “wallowing in victim status”, according to Kelvin MacKenzie, and defended the Sun columnist after he compared Everton footballer Ross Barkley to a gorilla.
Trevor Phillips allegedly sent a text message to MacKenzie saying he had “no idea Barkley was a brother” after it was revealed that the England midfielder’s grandfather is Nigerian.
MacKenzie was suspended by News UK for expressing “wrong” and “unfunny” views about the people of Liverpool in a column earlier this month.
MacKenzie, a former editor of the Sun, said he expected to be called a racist by Phillips, once the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Instead, MacKenzie claimed that Phillips sent him a text reading: “WTF? I have to confess I had no idea Barkley was a brother. Sad to see a great city wallowing in victim status. Unbelievable.”
Phillips has declined to comment.
Writing in The Spectator MacKenzie said: “Actually I and every football fan I had ever met believed Barkley to be white.
“Unluckily for me, but luckily for my enemies in the north-west, that was not entirely true. It emerged that although Barkley looked white, his grandfather was half-Nigerian.
“The reality is that had I known of his family tree I would never have made the comparison, but since I am a columnist and not a researcher on Who Do You Think You Are? I didn’t know, and have yet to meet anybody who did. Including the Sun sports editor.”
Phillips was criticised for his reported position on the matter.
MacKenzie added “a number of MPs” shared Phillips’ view, with Andrew Mitchell reportedly texting: “On behalf of all gorillas I’d like to make a complaint.”
In 2012 Boris Johnson apologised for a Spectator article published in 2004 in which he accused Liverpudlians of wallowing in their “victim status” and said fans were partly responsible for the tragedy.
Earlier this month, and the day before the 28th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, MacKenzie wrote a derogatory column about Liverpool.
The main focus for MacKenzie’s attack was Barkley, who had been involved in a nightclub altercation.
MacKenzie wrote: “Perhaps unfairly, I have always judged Ross Barkley as one of our dimmest footballers. There is something about the lack of reflection in his eyes which makes me certain not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody at home.
“I get a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo. The physique is magnificent but it’s the eyes that tell the story.
“So it came as no surprise to me that the Everton star copped a nasty right-hander in a nightclub for allegedly eyeing up an attractive young lady who, as they say, was ‘spoken for’.
“The reality is that at £60,000 a week and being both thick and single, he is an attractive catch in the Liverpool area, where the only men with similar pay packets are drug dealers and therefore not at nightclubs, as they are often guests of Her Majesty.”
The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, reported MacKenzie to the police for what he said was a “racial slur”.
A statement from News UK, proprietors of the Sun, read: “The views expressed by Kelvin Mackenzie about the people of Liverpool were wrong, unfunny and are not the view of the paper.
“The Sun apologises for the offence caused. The paper was unaware of Ross Barkley’s heritage and there was never any slur intended.”