Those who look in regularly on Zelo Street will recall an occasion two months ago when political commentator and campaigner Owen Jones walked off the set during a late night Sky Papers review. Jones had become exasperated at host Mark Longhurst’s inability to call the Orlando gay club shooting for what it was - an LGBT hate crime. Longhurst, with at least the acquiescence of pundit Julia Hartley Brewer, had instead deflected.
After Jones was conciliatory towards Ms Hartley Brewer, she took the hand of friendship he had offered and bit it right off as she launched into an incendiary rant, making a number of creative accusations against him and making sure anyone reading knew that He Was The One Wot Done It. Some media outlets, on hearing the news that Longhurst has been made redundant by Sky, have taken her cue and blamed Jones for it. Well, sort of.
Even the Independent had to mention the Sky Papers incident: “Sky News ‘sacks’ presenter Mark Longhurst two months after Owen Jones clash over Orlando LGBT club shootings”. The Evening Standard was also just hinting, honest: “Owen Jones: Mark Longhurst leaving Sky News 'nothing to do with Orlando LGBT massacre row’”. Other sources, though, have already ventured beyond mere hinting.
The Express, aka The Daily UKIP, was rather less subtle: “Mark Longhurst 'quits' Sky after on-air tiff with Owen Jones about Orlando gay club attack … THE rumour-mill has started to spin as news comes from Sky that broadcaster Mark Longhurst is leaving the channel two months after a televised clash about hate crimes with Guardian writer Owen Jones”. Now we have both a “rumour mill” and a reminder Jones is a “Guardian writer”.
But these are mere amateurs when it comes to good old-fashioned nudge-nudgery, as the Mail has illustrated, with Sebastian Shakespeare nodding-and-winking “Was TV presenter fired over 'gay row' with class warrior? Sky News host Mark Longhurst leaves the channel two months after clash with activist Owen Jones during newspaper review”. See? It was all about a “gay row” with a “class warrior”. Do try and keep up at the back.
It got worse: “Mark Longhurst came to blows with Owen Jones two months ago”. Bullshit. There was a verbal disagreement. Try again. “Can upsetting Left-wing rabble-rouser Owen Jones be a sackable offence?” Er, no. “Jones … used to work for hard-Left Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell”. So what? “Both Sky and Longhurst declined to comment publicly on his departure”. Ah well, that’s both of them bang to rights, then.
It has been left to Owen Jones to take to Twitter and tell “Mark Longhurst leaving Sky News has nothing to do with me or anything that happened involving me. Any claim to the contrary is false”. Also, the reason Longhurst left Sky is because the broadcaster has been having a cost-saving and restructuring drive - with the result that some posts have been made redundant. Longhurst was one of those post holders. That is all.
Still, nothing like making it up to flog a few more papers is there? No surprise there, then.