The Spectator’s assistant editor Isabel Hardman has distanced herself from columnist Rod Liddle’s latest musings for the weekly magazine, which have been met with claims of Islamophobia and sexism.
Hardman published a statement on Twitter this morning, after Liddle’s column was published online, in which she said she “profoundly disagrees” with his comments and was “hugely upset” by the piece.
Liddle’s column is on the upcoming UK general election. He has since said the suggestions he makes within it are “patently a joke” following a backlash online from journalists and politicians.
He wrote in his article: “It was principally the student vote that won Canterbury for the sobbing and oppressed Rosie ‘#MeToo’ Duffield. Please don’t let that happen again.
“My own choice of election date would be a day when universities are closed and Muslims are forbidden to do anything on pain of hell, or something. There must be at least one day like that in the Muslim calendar, surely?
“That would deliver at least 40 seats to the Tories, I reckon.”
Spectator editor Fraser Nelson has also come under fire for publishing the piece.
Duffield fought to hold back tears in an emotional address to Parliament last month when she described her own experience of domestic abuse (see video below).
"When they ask you out, they don't present their rage… they don't threaten, criticise, control, yell"
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) October 2, 2019
Hardman said: “I have nothing to do with pieces that go into the magazine other than the ones I write myself but do not want anyone to think I somehow agree [with] what he has said about Muslims voting, and I do not believe they are funny or worth writing.
“Similarly, I know personally just how strong and brave survivors of domestic abuse are and Rosie Duffield is one of the finest among us.”
Labour MP Liam Byrne has described Liddle’s “suggestion to disenfranchise Muslim voters” as “disgusting” and the “epitome of Islamophobia”.
In a letter, shared online, he has asked BBC director general Lord Tony Hall to no longer invite Liddle or Nelson on as contributors to BBC programmes.
Chancellor Sajid Javid tweeted: “Not clear if the Rod Liddle comment is supposed to be a joke – but it’s not funny and not acceptable. No community in our country should be put down that way.”
The Independent Press Standards Organisation, which regulates the Spectator, has said eight people have complained to it about the column.
Responding to the “fury and outrage” over his piece in a follow-up article earlier, Liddle said his words had been “ripped, as ever, out of context”.
He said: “There was no hate speech or Islamophobia whatsoever in my piece. None was meant, none intended and none should be taken.
“It was a very light-hearted series of suggestions about when to hold an election, based upon the silly dispute over the proposed dates for the election. It was patently a joke.”
He said the suggestions he had made on when to hold the poll were “obviously ludicrous” and “satirical in manner”.
In a comment piece published in April, Nelson said the power of editors over their writers was “comically overstated”.
“I’m struck by the number of politicians who imagine that there’s a hierarchy: that editors shape the opinions of columnists who, in turn, shape opinions of readers,” he said.
“The truth, I’m afraid, is that the hierarchy works in the other way.”