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Ken won't apologise

by: SJ Reporter - Last updated: 2005-02-16

Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has refused to apologise for comparing a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard but has admitted his comment was offensive.

The reporter, Oliver Finegold works for London's Evening Standard and was covering a story at City Hall marking the 20-year anniversary of former Culture Secretary Chris Smith coming out as Britain’s first openly gay MP.

Finegold says of the incident when he went to ask Livingstone some questions of how the evening went:

"I started by asking if he had enjoyed the party. He refused to answer and instead went on to liken me to a "German war criminal. I was surprised at what he had said and replied that I was Jewish and found his comments offensive. But he continued, saying: "Well you might be, but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard - you are just doing it because you are paid to, aren't you?"

Livingstone also told Finegold: "work for a paper that doesn’t have a record of supporting fascism."

At a press conference, Livingstone said of the Evening Standard owner Associated Newspapers: "Although we uniquely have some brilliant newspapers and first-rate journalists, their standing is dragged down by what must be some of the most reprehensibly managed, edited and owned newspapers in the world. They have a disgraceful record, none more so than the Daily Mail. I deplore them and regret they ever existed."

He added: "You can make the case my remarks were offensive and that they may be actionable and may have recourse in law but you can’t make the case they were racist. I am not going to apologise if I do not believe that I have done something wrong. I am not going to appease media pressure by lying."

Livingstone believes the Associated Newspapers is running a hate campaign against him.

Finegold added:

"Mr Livingstone's comments have shocked and offended me. My family arrived in London in the 1880s after fleeing the pogroms in Russia. I am at a loss to explain why he felt the need to attack me as a "concentration camp guard" - especially after I told him that I was Jewish. His refusal to apologise or see the harm he has done has only made the situation worse. If he did not want to talk to me, he could have said no comment. None of this needed to have happened."

Jewish groups including the Board of Deputies have raised concern over Livingstone's actions and have asked for a full apology.