Media fixation with wealth creates violence: Tarrant

Tarrant: attacked ‘politics of envy’

Who Wants to be a Millionaire? presenter Chris Tarrant has accused journalists of helping to create violence in society by constantly referring to people’s wealth.

"These stories are creating a jealous society," Tarrant, himself a millionaire, told more than 300 members and guests of the journalists’ charity, the Newspaper Press Fund, at a celebrity lunch in Birmingham.

"Every paper is full of irrelevant and usually inaccurate stories of people’s wealth," he claimed.

When he fell out of a tree and broke his leg, he said, the stories ran: "Chris Tarrant, who is worth £3m a year, fell out of a tree yesterday."

He said: "What the bloody hell has that got to do with me falling out of a tree? It’s always like that.

"There are people who will read their newspaper and they will feel aggrieved, jealous.

"They will be asking questions like, ‘Why should he, that thick footballer, have so much money and all these blonde girls? And why haven’t I?’," Tarrant claimed.

"I do think that contributes a lot towards the violent society we live in. That politics of envy is part of why society is violent – in Britain last year gun crime went up something like 40 per cent. That is scary.

"There is this ‘I’m only here once and why can’t I have all that?’ attitude. It’s in your face, in every newspaper and on every TV show."

His own show was part of it, he acknowledged. "People tend to lose the plot of what is real money," he said, referring to one event on the programme when a contestant threw away a cheque for £32,000.

"How dare he screw up a cheque that people would give their right arm for, that would change people’s lives? It’s a huge amount of money. Most people in this country still probably do not take home £16,000 a year."

Journalists wrote, before contestant Judith Keppel became the show’s first millionaire, that Tarrant was the only one who had made a million from it.

"The reality was that I was a millionaire before I started doing it," he stressed.

They also denigrated people who already had money winning £1m on the show but he stated: "It has to be open to everybody.

"It is great when the window cleaner wins a quarter of a million but the reality of this world is that if you have travelled lots and had quite a privileged education then you do have a head start and will probably do better."

The press did a big number on Keppel being rich, he recalled, but it was not true. "She’s posh but she’s skint. This is just a jealous society."

Jean Morgan

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