Former RTÉ and Irish Times journalist Kevin Myers has told Gript’s The Week that Really Was podcast that RTÉ and The Irish Times tried to bury an RTÉ apology made to Myers after he was defamed by the public broadcaster in 2017.
Myers told Gript he feels that both Irish media outlets failed in their “fundamental duty to tell the truth” and report on the apology he received from RTÉ after it unfairly labelled him a “holocaust denier” on Morning Ireland.
Myers, a longstanding defender of Israel, settled his defamation case against RTÉ in 2019 – but says that the national broadcaster failed to properly report on the outcome, and even went as far as deleting their on-air apology to him from the podcast recording of their own show. The veteran writer said it was “incredible” that the Irish Times, along with RTÉ News, failed to report on his out-of -court settlement against RTÉ.
He said the actions of RTÉ, along with The Irish Times, a paper he wrote for over 25 years, evidenced an “unprecedented capacity to stay silent in the face of falsehood” – with more and more journalists afraid to tell the truth because of the risk of financial and career ruin.
Myers, once one of Ireland’s most known and respected journalists, was “cancelled” in the summer of 2017 over alleged anti-semitism. The accusations centred around comments he made about British broadcasters Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman, which led to claims he was a “holocaust denier”.
In a July 2017 op-ed for the Irish edition of the Sunday Times about the BBC gender pay gap controversy of the time, entitled “Sorry ladies – equal pay has to be earned,” he penned: “Is it because men are more charismatic performers? Because they work harder? Because they are more driven? Possibly a bit of each”and that men might be paid more because they “work harder, get sick less frequently and seldom get pregnant”.
He also speculated that BBC presenters Winkleman and Feltz were higher paid than other female presenters because they were Jewish, writing: “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”.
While the veteran journalist was defended by the chair of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland, Maurice Cohen, who said that Myers was not antisemitic, Myers apologised for this article on radio, saying that “it is over for me professionally as far as I can see”, and that “I think they [Jewish people] are the most gifted people who have ever existed on this planet and civilisation owes an enormous debt to them – I am very, very sorry that I should have so offended them.”
Following outcry, the editor of the Irish edition of the Sunday Times, Frank Fitzgibbon, issued a statement saying the newspaper “abhorred” anti-semitism and did not intend to cause offence to Jewish people – while the Sunday Times’s editior Martin Ivens said the article should not have been published in the first place. Both apologised for publishing it, and it was later removed from the website. Shortly afterwards, the newspaper announced that Myers would not write for The Sunday Times again, signalling the cancellation of the popular writer.
In July 2017, on its flagship news and current affairs programme Morning Ireland, RTÉ blasted Myers as a “holocaust denier”. Myers launched a defamation suit against the national broadcaster, which ended in an out-of-court settlement reached between Myers and RTÉ. In November 2019, the broadcaster was forced to issue an on-air apology to Myers over the “damaging” claims.
While the sum was not revealed, Myers told Gript that reports it was “significant” were true. In January of 2020, The Sunday Independent revealed that the public service broadcaster had settled its case, paying the journalist a six figure sum, rumoured to be up to €250,000 in settlement and legal costs for the defamation of Myers.
RTÉ ‘REMOVED APOLOGY FROM ITS OWN PODCAST’
Speaking to Gript on Thursday, the 76-year-old revealed that while RTÉ had to apologise live on air for defaming him, the broadcaster buried its apology to him – even deleting it from the podcast of their show.
Myers was asked by host John McGuirk how he is and how he has dealt with the tumultuous events of the past six years, responding:
“I’m happy to tell you that I’m extremely well, and I’m sorry to tell the lynch mob that my health is extraordinarily good – which was not their intention”. He described his treatment by the media establishment as “outrageous”, stating:
“What was done to me six years ago was outrageous, but it was – as we now know – perfectly normative. I don’t mean normal, but normative, in that it set new standards of normality. As we now know, these new standards were deranged and culturally counter-productive”.
Myers told Gript that he does regret the comments he made in his newspaper column six years ago, but only because his words were “misunderstood”.
“I regret what I said about those two broadcasters on BBC – merely because what I said was misunderstood. It was a genuine compliment that they had negotiated a very good deal with the BBC and quite rightly, too. I mentioned their Jewish background as a compliment because anyone who knows me knows that I have been a steadfast supporter of Israel for the last 20 years or more.”
The English-born Irish journalist went on to say that what happened to him was “deliberate” – telling the programme, “I’m quite sure I was set up by someone within The Sunday Times”.
He insisted the paper had “plenty of time to consider” what he had written before going to publication, and pointed out that the attacks on him began at “one minute past [midnight] on the Sunday morning [the article was published].”
“Somebody accessed my column from London, clearly with the intention of denouncing me as an anti-semite,” he said, recalling of that time: “The attacks grew throughout the morning, in the early hours. I got a phone call from John Burns, my page editor at 8:50am on Sunday morning, he said, “You’re in dire trouble and your career might be over; and sure enough it was”.
Opening up about RTÉ apologising to Myers after labelling him a holocaust denier, Myers told Gript:
“The Irish Times and RTÉ News never reported the settlement, which was out of court. RTÉ was obliged to make an abject apology to me acknowledging that they had done me serious damage by calling me a holocaust denier – and affirming this basic truth – that I had, for many decades, attested to the realities and the evils of Hitler’s Final Solution. RTÉ offered an apology, Brian Dobson offered an apology, in a very sincere and heartfelt way.”
Myers explained that the apology was transmitted just before 9am on the morning of the settlement – but no further coverage or reporting followed. The apology was even removed from RTÉ’s podcast.
“That was it,” he told the programme. “RTE never, four minutes later [on the 9 o’clock news bulletin] never broadcast any news of that settlement. And The Irish Times, even though [they] had been sent a press release, never reported it.
“So if you hadn’t heard the apology at four minutes to nine, you wouldn’t know it had ever been made. And it was removed from RTE’s podcast.”
“It’s really shameful,” he said. “They went to the trouble of broadcasting the apology, then made sure that anyone who was trying to catch up with the apology that morning’s broadcast wouldn’t ever hear it”.
He added: “And no news outlet in RTE, whether on radio or television, ever heard of the nature of the apology – [but] this is a public service broadcaster. Its obligation is to tell its listeners and its viewers not merely the truth about Ireland but the truth about itself; when it got something really, seriously wrong, and had done serious damage to an innocent journalist, as they had done to me. But they never admitted that, and more incredibly, The Irish Times did exactly the same thing”.
‘A CAPACITY TO STAY SILENT IN THE FACE OF FALSEHOOD’
Myers said that he wrote to Professor John Hegarty, as an individual who was on both the Irish Times Trust and The Irish Times Board – but received no acknowledgment.
“I wrote to him, pointing out that The Irish Times had failed in its fundamental duty to report the truth about a former columnist of The Irish Times – that’s me – and I wrote for The Irish Times for 25 years. I said that The Irish Times has an obligation to tell the truth, and this was an opportunity for John Hegarty, as a chairman of both main bodies in The Irish Times, to undo the damage which [the paper] had done to itself and to me by not reporting the truth.
“I never even got an acknowledgement from him. So we’re dealing with a capacity to stay silent in the face of falsehood that is, in my own personal experience, unprecedented in the Irish media”.
He said the actions of the media outlets represented a “primary step” in creation of the series of falsehoods which have “helped destroy the ability to have a free and open conversation in Irish life about important matters.
“What has happened is that the vast majority of journalists who want to stay in their career simply comply and conform,” Myers added. “To dissent is to bring financial ruin to oneself and to one’s career.”
Myers said that because of his age, the “destruction of his career” did not mean the simultaneous destruction of his livelihood.
“But were I half a century younger than I am,” he said, “my life would be over economically […] had I been a journalist who was destroyed at age 25.”
The impact of that form of cancellation via the media and social media on a young journalist would have meant “I would never work again,” Myers said. “My career would be ended, and that is the purpose of these lynch mobs. [They] not only want to end the particular conversation, but they want to end or destroy [your] possibility of ever reappearing in the media”.
“That’s a terrifying thing,” he said.
You can listen to the podcast in full here.