Observer editor John Mulholland withdraws Julie Burchill column accused of transphobia

Joseph McCormick January 14, 2013
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The editor of the Observer, John Mulholland, has withdrawn a column by Julie Burchill published yesterday which came under heavy criticism for accusations of transphobia.

Burchill was roundly condemned on Twitter for describing members of the transgender community as “a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs” and “dicks in chicks’ clothing” in a column in the newspaper yesterday.

Today John Mulholland, released a statement, saying: “We have decided to withdraw from publication the Julie Burchill comment piece ‘Transsexuals should cut it out’. The piece was an attempt to explore contentious issues within what had become a highly-charged debate. The Observer is a paper which prides itself on ventilating difficult debates and airing challenging views.

“On this occasion we got it wrong and in light of the hurt and offence caused I apologise and have made the decision to withdraw the piece. The Observer Readers’ Editor will report on these issues at greater length.”

The article has been replaced by the statement from Mr Mulholland, and the comments section has been disabled.

Liberal Democrat International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone had called for John Mulholland and columnist Julie Burchill to be sacked over her article.

Alan Rusbridger, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian Media Group, which owns the Observer distanced himself from the column yesterday. A spokesperson for the Guardian Media Group said: “We acknowledge the strong reaction to Julie Burchill’s piece published in The Observer.

“As indicated by Observer editor John Mulholland on Twitter, we are taking such reactions extremely seriously and we have asked our independent readers’ editor to urgently investigate the matter.”

Julie Burchill launched the attack in defence of her friend and fellow writer Suzanne Moore who last week was severely criticised for suggesting women were expected to look like “Brazilian transsexuals”.

Many considered the term to be offensive – not least because Brazil has an appalling record on transphobic hate crime.

Moore then proceeded to use several transphobic slurs in Twitter conversations and then appeared to close her account on the microblogging site on Friday.

Guardian columnist Julie Bindel defended Moore and tweeted @PinkNews last week: “Can those of us who hate bullying PLEASE do something about the trans cabal running a witch hunt everytime they get offended?

After leaving, Ms Moore returned to Twitter and apologised for some of her controversial comments.

A protest had been planned for Thursday, outside the Guardian Media Group, following the accusations of transphobia, demanding an apology, as well as assurances that its publications wouldn’t be used as platforms for hate speech.

Writing in the Guardian, trans rights activist Roz Kaveney accused Burchill of “bullying the trans community” and of using “hate speech”

Related topics: apology, Guardian Media Group, john mulholland, julie burchill, lynne featherstone, Media, Observer, statement, The Guardian, transphobia

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