Lawyer best-known for clubbing a fox to death apologises after comparing Dominic Cummings to ‘a man with HIV having unprotected sex’
After intense outcry, a British barrister apologised Sunday afternoon (May 24) for comparing Dominic Cummings to “a man with HIV having unprotected sex”.
Good Law Project director Jolyon “Jo” Maugham weathered heavy criticism from sexual health advocates and LGBT+ circles after he tweeted what critics called a “harmful analogy”.
The lawyer was weighing in on the heaving backlash Cummings – the British prime minister’s top aide – was being pelted with after it emerged he flouted lockdown rules twice to visit family in Durham, England, while ill with COVID-19.
Maugham tweeted that morning that: “Cummings is like a man who knows he has HIV but nevertheless has unprotected sex with someone else without telling them.”
He faced criticism earlier this year for tweeting about clubbing a fox to death on Boxing Day morning while wearing his wife’s satin kimono.
‘Dominic Cummings is like a man who knows he has HIV but nevertheless has unprotected sex.’
Statements from both premier Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings claimed that the special advisor had driven some 260 miles north from London to try to line-up care for their young child before Cummings fell ill.
While evidence from witnesses and law enforcement mount against this narrative, the inflamed reaction against Cummings attested to the anger felt by housebound members of the public when officials violate lockdown.
Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist and adviser to the government, stepped down from a key scientific panel after admitting he defied stay-at-home orders to visit a woman whom he was romantically involved with.
Many political pundits made striking comparisons between Cabinet minister’s decidedly muted reactions to Cummings – often excusing his actions or staying silent completely – to the outrage directed at Ferguson.
“If you want to use ‘visiting your lover’ analogy,” Maugham tweeted, criticising those who defend Cummings but skewered Ferguson.
“Cummings is like a man who knows he has HIV but nevertheless has unprotected sex with someone else without telling them.
“Ferguson, the man who believes himself to be clear of it.”
Jo Maugham apologises for comparing HIV to COVID-19.
Immediately, the tweet drew a heavy drumbeat of denouncement from users, with many accusing Maugham of perpetuating misinformation around HIV with the clunky comparison between the viruses.
Detractors sought to remind Maugham that the vast majority of those living with HIV on treatment cannot transmit the virus and urged him to educate himself.
As someone with HIV this is an appalling and ill-informed tweet.
Read up on U=U (Undetectable=Untransmittable) and educate yourselfhttps://t.co/EWZYjFQOvN
— Tony Bird (@TonyBirdLondon) May 24, 2020
.@JolyonMaugham — just stop. ?? you could have made this exact point without having to stigmatise folks living with HIV — the majority of whom are on treatment, have an undetectable viral load, & thus cannot transmit the virus — as being a danger to other people. bad take. ? https://t.co/ovhvd3YC5D
— Dr Adrian Harrop (@AdrianHarrop) May 24, 2020
Can we not bring HIV into it? It’s a totally unnecessary comparison because it’s not hard to understand the initial one (virus can be passed on does not need explanation). All you do with comments like that is further the already horrific stigma against people living with HIV.
— Hellohibbs (@hellohibbs) May 24, 2020
“This is a harmful analogy which HIV/LGBT+ groups have been trying to tackle,” tweeted Alasdair Clark.
“The vast majority of people with HIV are on an effective treatment programme which controls their viral load to an undetectable level so that they cannot pass the virus on.”
Maugham shortly after apologised for the tweet, and retweeted Clark’s criticism and deleted the original tweet. He then added: “I am sorry if I have embedded any unhelpful stereotype.”
Thanks Alasdair. Have RTed your reply. I am sorry if I have embedded any unhelpful stereotype.
— Jo Maugham QC (@JolyonMaugham) May 24, 2020
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“We all have an obligation to ensure we don’t embed unhelpful prejudices – and indeed to discourage others from doing so,” Maugham told PinkNews.
“That’s why, when it was pointed out to me that my tweet could be read as embedding a stereotype about men with HIV having unprotected sex, I apologised, deleted the tweet, thanked my critic for pointing out that it was unhelpful and retweeted his criticism so others might learn from my mistake.