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Feltz and Winkleman could seek legal advice over Kevin Myers Sunday Times article

By Allison Bray

BBC presenters Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman could take legal advice over a controversial Sunday Times column by Kevin Myers, the Republic's press watchdog has said.

The Republic's Office of the Press Ombudsman is now investigating more than 50 complaints over the article on gender pay by Mr Myers, which has cost him his job with the newspaper.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday branded the contents of the column "misogynistic" and "anti-Semitic". He said: "I read the article. And it is misogynistic and anti-Semitic. That's my view and I think the Sunday Times has taken the appropriate action."

The Sunday Times has already confirmed that Mr Myers will no longer be writing for it following a barrage of complaints. It also removed the piece from its website on Sunday and promised to run an apology.

The article with the headline 'Sorry, ladies, equal pay has to be earned' suggested that men "work harder, get sick less frequently and seldom get pregnant".

Mr Myers also wrote in the piece that the two best-paid women in the BBC were Jewish and "Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price".

Sean Donlon, chair of the Press Council of Ireland, confirmed that the Office of the Press Ombudsman received 54 official complaints about the matter. He said the Sunday Times had "taken appropriate steps so far".

"But it's not the end," he continued, adding that Ms Feltz and Ms Winkleman could still seek legal advice over the matter.

Neither Mr Myers nor Sunday Times officials responded to requests for comment yesterday.

Ms Feltz herself said the piece highlighted "every vile stereotype about what Jewish people have ever been deemed to be by racists".

However, a leading Jewish organisation came to Myers' defence. Maurice Cohen, chair of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland, denied that Mr Myers is anti-Semitic.

Mr Cohen said that "branding Kevin Myers as either an anti-Semite or a Holocaust denier is an absolute distortion of the facts".

He added: "We, who have been reading Kevin's work over many years, and those who know him personally, know that while this was a real error of judgment on his part, also know that he is not an anti-Semite."

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