So it was that last weekend, in the aftermath of Prince Philip’s funeral at Windsor Castle, the paper’s chief foreign correspondent Christina Lamb told readers, under the heading “Forced to mourn alone, the Queen bids Philip Goodbye”, “To her subjects, Prince Philip was the longest serving Royal consort in British history - an often crotchety figure, offending people with gaffes about slitty eyes, even if we rather enjoyed them”.
Whistle those racist doggies! A petition calling for an apology soon had more than 16,000 signatories. This may have been assisted by the robust reaction typified by Viv Yau: “Hey [Christina Lamb] what’s with this article you wrote saying you secretly enjoyed jokes about people with slitty eyes? I’m confused. Please help explain what’s funny?”
Actor Gemma Chan was similarly unimpressed. “To trivialise casual racism of this kind *right now* - whilst the Asian diaspora has been enduring a surge of attacks - is particularly irresponsible [The Sunday Times] [Christina Lamb]. I am disappointed and hope if it was a mistake you are able to apologise and learn from it”. Just to underscore that, she later copied in the ST’s new editor Emma Tucker.
Ms Yau’s enquiry initially met with silence, but as Emma Ko noted, “They did quietly do an edit on the online version Viv. So they reacted, just not to the extent of apologising & doing a public retraction. Racism - alive and well in Great Britain today”.
Now, as Press Gazette has told, “Sunday Times editor Emma Tucker has apologised after a front page story about Prince Philip’s funeral claimed the public ‘secretly enjoyed’ gaffes which sometimes had a racial element … [she] said [Ms] Lamb ‘never intended’ to make light of the duke’s comments”. The copy just happened to get past every sub and duty editor in the Baby Shard bunker. So what was the lame excuse this time?
“This so-called ‘gaffe’ made by Prince Philip was a well-known aspect of his life story. The Sunday Times did not intend to condone it … It was noted by us on Saturday night that the sentence was offensive and it was not published in digital editions … Christina Lamb has spent her whole career reporting on discrimination and injustices against people in every part of the world and never intended to make light of his remark in any way”.
At the time, James Felton had mused “If only there were a way for the Sunday Times to honour Prince Philip without saying ‘ah come on now we all secretly love racism’”. So very Murdoch press nudge-nudge. And as Pete Fraser has said, following that sort-of apology, “The problem here is, by saying they ‘rather enjoyed it’ it they *did* intend to condone it. Are apologies just organisations going ‘we didn’t mean it’ now? Cause if newspapers are getting in on the culture of ‘misspeaking’, that’s going to get messy”.
If it had really been acknowledged as offensive (as well as racially charged) then it should not have even got into the print edition. The ST’s apology is not good enough.
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