Commons Speaker John Bercow has labelled Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie a “bigoted fellow” over a controversial article he wrote about a TV reporter wearing a hijab.
The column – which questioned why Channel 4 News reporter Fatima Manji, a hijab-wearing Muslim, was chosen to present coverage of the Nice terror attack – has attracted more than 1,700 complaints since it was published on Tuesday.
MacKenzie wrote: “Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there has been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?
“Was it done to stick one in the eye of the ordinary viewer who looks at the hijab as a sign of slavery of Muslim women by a male-dominated and clearly violent religion?”
Equalities minister Justine Greening said people should not “rise to the bait” of the “offensive” comments, but shadow equalities minister Angela Rayner urged MacKenzie to make an apology.
During equalities questions, Rayner said: “Like many people across the House and this country I was dismayed and upset by The Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie’s disgraceful Islamophobic attack on the Channel 4 News presenter Fatima Manji.
“Will you join me in making it clear that all parties in this House regard those comments as totally unacceptable?
“And will you also join me in urging Mr MacKenzie to make a full public apology and urge The Sun and other media to be responsible in who and what they allow on their media outlets?”
Greening replied: “This isn’t the first time that Kelvin MacKenzie has written and said things that are deeply controversial and, to many people in our country, deeply offensive, frankly.
“It is for him to respond to the wave of criticism he’s received since writing that article.
“From my perspective, I’m proud that we live in a country where men and women are equal but that includes women having the right to be able to wear what they want and to be able to get on in their job wearing what they want, and that includes newscasters and journalists, in my view.
“We need to make sure we have some kind of consensus around not rising to the bait of people like Kelvin MacKenzie and I hope we can frankly give his comments the derision they deserve.”
Bercow said: “The minister has put the bigoted fellow in his place.”
The Independent Press Standards Organisation said complaints about the article were mainly under the Editors’ Code clauses on accuracy, harassment and discrimination.