The Sunday Times of London has come under fire after a columnist for the newspaper's Irish edition suggested that two female BBC presenters were able to negotiate high salaries because they are Jewish. The columnist has reportedly been fired over the column.
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The scandal comes against the backdrop of a major controversy in Britain over the disparity in salaries earned by male and female on-air personalities at the BBC.
The Sunday Times column, by Kevin Myers, was called anti-Semitic and "disgraceful" by the head of the Board of Deputies of British Jewry and has been removed from the newspaper's website.
Myer's column, entitled "Sorry, ladies - equal pay has to be earned," followed the disclosure that two-thirds of BBC on-air stars earning annual salaries of 150,000 pounds (about $200,000) or more, are male. It reportedly focused on two on-air female BBC presenters among the highest-paid, Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz.
“We can confirm that Kevin Myers will not write again for The Sunday Times Ireland," the New York Times quoted a London Sunday Times spokesman as saying. “The [London] Sunday Times editor, Martin Ivens, has also apologized personally to Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz for these unacceptable comments both to Jewish people and to women in the workplace," the spokesman said.
According to the BBC, Myers wrote: "Good for them" and added: "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." In explaining why men generally earn more, Myers also wrote that they "work harder, get sick less frequently and seldom get pregnant," according to the BBC website.
The Irish editor of the Sunday Times, Frank Fitzgibbon, apologized "unreservedly" for any offense caused, according to the BBC.
The London-based Independent online newspaper reported that this is not Myers' first brush with allegations of anti-Semitism, stating that in 2009, he defended a traditionalist English Catholic bishop, Richard Williamson, who was accused of being a Holocaust denier.
The president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush called the column "disgraceful," saying that it promoted "classic anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money," according to the Jewish Chronicle of London. Arkush demanded "answers" as to how the column was approved for publication by the Irish edition of the Times of London.