Businesswoman Gina Miller has lost a discrimination complaint over a column by Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times in which he referred to a group of people, which included her, as “monkeys”.
In the piece, published on 20 October last year, Liddle said he wished Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal a “swift passage through the chamber”.
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He went on to list Miller alongside Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee, ex-Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson and “various pompous Scottish remoaner lawyers”, saying: “If these monkeys hate it, it can’t be all bad.”
The term prompted Miller, a woman of colour, to complain to watchdog the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
She said it was a “pejorative reference to her race” in breach of Clause 12 (discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
The anti-Brexit campaigner told IPSO there was a “long, clear and proven history of the word as a term of racial abuse” and it was “irrelevant” that she appeared in a list of other individuals.
The Sunday Times denied that the term represented a reference to the complainant’s race, but said rather it was an attack on the group’s “public positions on Brexit”, adding that the others listed were white.
The paper said the term “monkeys” is “frequently used by the columnist to describe his disapproval of foolish behaviour, as defined in dictionaries”.
It said Liddle, who was not named in IPSO’s ruling, had never used it to refer to race, offering examples his earlier articles by way of proof.
The paper apologised for any offence caused, but said its writer was “simply expressing his dislike of the named individuals” and was entitled to convey his opinion in the comment piece.
IPSO’s Complaints Committee agreed with the Sunday Times’ view.
It said that while “monkey” could be a racial slur, “in this instance the term has been used by the columnist to describe a group of named and unnamed individuals of different races, of whom he was critical for their views on Brexit”.
The committee said Miller was named as a member of the group and “not otherwise distinguished”.
The complaint was not upheld.
The ruling comes weeks after ITV News anchor Alastair Stewart stepped down over a social media “misjudgement”, suspected to be quoting Shakespeare at a black Twitter user which included the line “his glassy essence – like an angry ape”.
Picture: Reuters/Henry Nicholls