Controversial columnist faces backlash as people call for her to be fired over article comparing migrants to cockroaches
An online petition calling on the Sun to sack Katie Hopkins as a columnist had more than 190,000 signatures on Monday after she said gunships should be used to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean, prompting more than 100 complaints to the press regulator.
Her latest Sun column, in which she compared migrants to “cockroaches”, was published hours before the weekend capsizing of a fishing vessel packed with migrants, with the latest reports suggesting the death toll could reach 950.
Ipso has received over 100 complaints since Saturday about the article. The Sun now has 28 days to put its case to the press regulator and then Ipso will rule on whether the column breached an editor’s code that bans the use of racial generalisations among other things. The ruling will take up to a month after the Sun’s response.
The most relevant parts of the Ipso editors’ code of practice are likely to be clause one on accuracy and clause 12 on discrimination.
Hopkins, a one-time contestant on BBC1’s The Apprentice and a frequent source of controversy, found herself under attack from listeners during a guest slot presenting on Global Radio-owned talk station LBC on Sunday.
The petition on Change.org calls on the Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, to “remove Katie Hopkins as a columnist”. Targeting 200,000 signatures, it had more than 190,000 by Monday lunchtime.
Hopkins wrote in the Sun on Friday: “No, I don’t care. Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don’t care.
“Because in the next minute you’ll show me pictures of aggressive young men at Calais, spreading like norovirus on a cruise ship … These two populations are the same. The migrants harassing Brit truckers at the port are the same as the vagrants making the perilous trip across the Med.”
Headlined “Rescue boats? I’d use gunships to stop migrants”, Hopkins said: “What we need are gunships sending these boats back to their own country. You want to make a better life for yourself? Then you had better get creative in Northern Africa.”
She added: “Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit ‘Bob Geldorf’s Ethiopia circa 1984’, but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb. They are survivors.”
Presenting a two-hour show on LBC on Sunday, Hopkins was challenged about the article in the wake of the capsizing of the fishing vessel just outside Libyan waters, the latest instance in Europe’s worsening migrant crisis.
One caller, called Ronke from Greenwich, said Hopkins was “selling a completely false rhetoric to the nation” which was “disappointing and dangerous, really upsetting”.
When the caller said the solution was to go back to the governments of the countries where the migrants were coming from and “figure out what is going on in the first place”, Hopkins said: “I’m going to shut you down there because to be honest it’s boring the life out of me.
“If you are going to trot off and have a word with their government, if you think that’s a solution for those 700 people who can’t swim who were in a boat that capsized, I think probably you need to get back and read a little bit more of your Guardian newspaper.”
Hopkins said her column had been “widely misquoted” and the gunships “refer to the Australian kind of approach, which is to use gunships in order to be able to tow boats back to where they came from”.
She added: “Nor am I included to tow the PC line, I do believe those boats need pushing back. We pay an enormous amount towards foreign aid as it is, I don’t think we need to be helping with a rescue programme in the Med as well.”
Hopkins was presenting a one-off show on the station, standing in for regular Sunday morning presenter, Beverley Turner.
The online petition, started by Izzy Saunders, said: “The majority of migrants who make this crossing are from war-torn Syria which they flee for their own safety, or Eritrea which they leave to avoid extreme oppression and human rights violations.
“These people, who can pay sums of £10,000 and sometimes more to make this desperate journey, were called cockroaches by Katie Hopkins. Inexplicably, she described them as ‘feral humans’ despite her own flagrant lack of humanity.
“Katie claims she ‘doesn’t care if migrants die’ which is an opinion she is entitled to, despite it being a sad and selfish one.
“I am not attacking her right to an opinion, however I do not believe the Sun newspaper should encourage these poisonous opinions. Presenting these extreme views as normal is dangerous and only encourages further demonisation of immigrants in our own country.
“We live in a forward thinking society and Katie Hopkins’ views should not be encouraged; this is why I ask the Sun newspaper and editor David Dinsmore to remove Katie Hopkins as a columnist, at the very least, to redeem yourselves from publishing this prejudiced article in the first place.”
This article was written by John Plunkett, for theguardian.com on Monday 20th April 2015 12.56 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010