Fox News anchor Lisa Kennedy Montgomery insulted all Irish people with Rory McIlroy remark
In the range of sneering, racist jibes, "leprechaun" isn't the worst. But let's unpick its meaning a little.
It implies that one is short. This is not a failing in itself, though not actually true of Rory McIlroy, the person at whom the word was aimed.
Fox news anchor Kennedy Montgomery's defence of her use of the word amounts to "some of my best friends are leprechauns".
So, she can use the word lightly and playfully - but she directed it at Rory with the intention of insulting him.
She doesn't like him for the way he treated former fiancée Caroline Wozniacki.
Leprechaun doesn't just suggest small. It suggests impish and cute. But most of all it says: Irish.
And, aside from Rory's background being simply irrelevant to the question of how he treated Caroline, reaching for his Irishness as something to hit him with, something to belittle and diminish him with, just breaks one of the fundamental rules of decency in the modern world.
Ms Montgomery should consider whether she'd get away with racist name-calling if she was talking about Tiger Woods.
Certainly, the well-known words available to her, should she choose to insult a black person by connecting his failings to his ethnicity, are a lot harsher than "leprechaun" - and she would know to stay well clear of them.
Nor would she chance being anti-Semitic, picking on some Jewish sportsperson, or entertainer, and summing up all her contempt for him in a word that embodies all the crass, popular prejudices that have been used to excuse barbarity and discrimination.
She knows she can't do that, but she obviously doesn't know why. It isn't because there are some ethnicities you can't insult; you can't insult any of them. So why get away with connecting derision for Rory McIlroy to his Irishness? Because it's all just a bit of "fun"?
No, she frankly dislikes him intensely and this is the word she chose to slap him with. The job of the word is not to express affection, bemusement, good-humoured chastisement; it is to express contempt.
Call a man a leprechaun, in a context in which you wish to say plainly that you dislike him, and you are saying simply that you dislike him because he is Irish; you are saying that the qualities which you despise in him are Irish qualities.
Which means that you are insulting all Irish people.
Though it is quite possible that she hasn't the wit to see that.
- Malachi O'Doherty is a writer and broadcaster