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A definitive list of sexist things John Humphrys has said

The BBC presenter was caught joking about the gender pay gap.

Rarely a morning passes these days without King of the Dinosaurs and perpetual Today programme presenter John Humphrys making some kind of offensive gaffe. His latest anguished howl at the modern world was a conversation with the BBC’s North America editor Jon Sopel in which the two men mocked the corporation’s gender pay gap.

Following China editor Carrie Gracie’s resignation from her role due to pay inequality, the two journalists joked about the story in an off-air chat.

The Sun reports Humphrys asking Sopel “how much of your salary you are prepared to hand over to Carrie Gracie to keep her” and referring to “other men who are earning too much” – then adding, “I could save you the trouble as I could volunteer that I’ve handed over already more than you fucking earn but I’m still left with more than anybody else and that seems to me to be entirely just; something like that would do it?” Before adding, “Oh dear God she’s actually suggested you should lose money.”

Apparently BBC management is “deeply unimpressed” with the conversation. And so is your mole, because it sees Humphrys’ “banter” as part of a trend that such a high-profile radio presenter should not be getting away with. Here are a few more examples from over the (many) ages:

Lamenting that MPs can’t “date” their juniors

Quizzing the Tory peer and former Foreign Secretary William Hague in November 2017 on the sexual harassment and abuse claims against politicians – or, as Humphrys delicately introduced the topic, “sexual abuse or whatever, scandals in the Palace of Westminster” – he feared that MPs will no longer be able to “date” their assistants:

“Is there a danger that we could go too far in the other direction and people will be afraid to ask somebody else out for the evening or indeed ask them out for a proper date – maybe, eventually, to marry them or something, I mean, you know. There are risks in this aren’t there?”

To which Hague, rather baffled, replied: “I don’t think we’ve reached that point, I think there is a real problem here to be dealt with.”

But Humphrys wouldn’t let go, adding:

“But we’re heading in that direction, aren’t we? Where, seriously, where MPs would be terribly nervous – an unmarried MP asking an unmarried assistant for a date?”

Earlier in the interview, he asked Hague twice if this is “a witch hunt”, pressing him a third time by asking: “Is there a danger of that?”

Hague avoided this line of questioning, arguing: “We’re in a new age of accountability.”

After discussing inequality and misogyny across the world, Hague was subjected to one final, idiotic question on the subject by Humphrys:

“There’s not a danger, is there, that if you conflate mass rape with somebody touching somebody’s knee perhaps accidentally in the House of Commons that we get it out of proportion?”

Propositioning “sensationally sexy” fellow presenter for “mad passionate love in the basement”

In the Eighties, Humphrys propositioned the newsreader Moira Stuart after being on air – in front of an audience who could lip-read what he was saying to her:

“You’re the most sensationally sexy lady I know. The best thing we can do is to make mad passionate love in the basement.”

Undermining Johanna Konta’s tennis success

In July last year, ahead of the Wimbledon women’s semi-finals, Humphrys outraged listeners by grilling British singles star Johanna Konta about her nationality.

Unable to grasp that someone who wasn’t born in the UK could possibly be – splutter – British, he thundered:

“We talk about you as being British but you were born in Hungary, Australian citizenship, and I seem to remember that the Australian High Commissioner when you won the quarter-final said ‘Great to see an Aussie win’ and we were saying ‘Great to see a Brit win’ – so what are you?”

Konta graciously handled the interview-turned-border control interrogation by giving a dismissive laugh and informing Humphrys that she wasn’t born in Hungary, and has lived in Britain half her life, representing it in both tennis tournaments and the Olympics for years: “I’m definitely a British athlete.”

Humphrys was accused of sexism and xenophobia.

Laughing at Michael Gove’s Weinstein joke

The Environment Secretary Michael Gove told Humphrys in October last year that “sometimes I think that coming into the studio with you, John, is a bit like going into Harvey Weinstein’s bedroom”, at which Humphrys let out a guffaw. “You just pray that you emerge with your dignity intact,” he continued, while fellow guest Neil Kinnock added: “John goes way past groping – way past groping.”

You can hear Humphrys chortling in the background throughout.

Accused of trivialising sexual assault, Gove later apologised about his “clumsy attempt at humour… [it] wasn’t appropriate. I’m sorry and apologise unreservedly.”

Three men of the establishment sniggering about sexual assault. A lovely summary of the whole problem right there.

Finding Angelina Jolie frivolous – AND diminishing violence against women

In 2014, the then Conservative minister Sayeeda Warsi accused Humphrys of “everyday sexism” and the Labour politician Glenys Thornton said she was “irritated” after comments he made in an interview with the then Foreign Secretary William Hague on Today.

Hague and Angelina Jolie co-chaired the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, but Humphrys accused the politician of looking “starstruck” in a photograph with her, and diverting his attention from “what really matters”.

“You must’ve been a bit embarrassed that with a full-blown crisis in the Middle East, you were in all the papers being photographed with Angelina Jolie… it did look as if you were a bit starstruck and as if it was a bit of a diversion from what really mattered,” Humphrys said. “You must’ve known the pictures in the papers were going to be of you with a very beautiful, very famous international superstar?... A bit embarrassing for you?”

Following the interview, Thornton said, “he seemed to suggest that because Angelina Jolie is a very beautiful and famous woman, somehow that undermined her support”.

Warsi added:

“In terms of the comments, well, you know, everyday sexism, what can we say? If there are men out there who believe women can’t be beautiful and brainy maybe they should read the Foreign Secretary’s speech in Washington last year when he said it is finally time for women to take their place at the important tables where decisions are made.”

Minimising victims in rape trials

When the host was interviewing the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders about sexual offence prosecutions last year, he suggested “the scales have been tipped a little too far” in favour of victims in sexual assault cases (calling them “sex cases”), and erroneously claimed that “at least, anecdotally” false accusations were rising.

He said the “problem” with such cases was that the accused don’t get anonymity, unlike the victims – and called it “regrettable” that former Prime Minister Ted Heath’s reputation had been “besmirched”.

The End Violence Against Women campaign called on the BBC to “stop Humphrys doing these” interviews.

Mansplaining fashion to the Vogue editor

The former editor of British Vogue Alexandra Shulman slammed Humphrys for “mansplaining” her industry to her during an interview when she was leaving the publication last year. Humphrys grilled her about what he saw as the loss of “hourglass” figures, and rarely seeing “reasonably cosy, comfortably shaped women” on the magazine’s cover, despite her listing recent profiles of all sorts of women, interrupting her by saying, “now you have to be skinny as a rake”.

“Suddenly I was confronted by a grey-haired guy in chinos hectoring me on the business I had worked in for a quarter of a century and which he neither knew, nor cared, much about,” she wrote in the Mail, accusing Humphrys of considering fashion a “shallow subject for discussion” and saying his knowledge of the subject was “no doubt low”.

“I would like to have spoken about the emergence of nylon, acrylic and polyester, and how they helped to release women from the drudgery of the kitchen sink and ironing board,” she added.

To make matters worse, Humphrys responded by doing that dreadful thing only sexist men do by flipping it round: “If I’d accused her of being, say, a grey-haired woman who wore whatever, that would have been sexist. But she was allowed to write that about me.”

Calling trans women “men who think they are women”

In a special segment on gender last year, Humphrys was accused of misgendering by claiming, “if a man thinks he’s a woman, all he has to do is fill in a form and say so, he doesn’t need to convince anybody else”, before badgering a trans woman to “prove” her identity in a combative interview.

When she said her “life experience is my fundamental proof”, he hit back: “But you don’t have a certificate that says you are a woman?”

Accusing a female politician of being too emotional to be party leader

When interviewing the Labour MP Angela Eagle in 2016, who had cried publicly after leaving the shadow cabinet, Humphrys asked: “Do we want somebody who weeps in the face of this sort of thing confronting Putin, for instance?.. Are you entitled to that if you’re a political leader?”

Eagle replied that “there’s more than one way to be a leader, and I think being in touch with your emotions is quite an important thing”.

“Displaying them is different from being in touch with them,” he replied. “Shouldn’t you be able to control those emotions when you’re under great stress?”

The writer Emma Kennedy tweeted “will John Humphreys tackle Obama on his occasional crying during office?” and the leader of the Women’s Equality Party Sophie Walker tweeted, “day after we stop assessing female leaders by childbearing capacity, John Humphrys finds Angela Eagle wanting for being emotional”.

Mocking a guest for crying

Following fellow presenter Nick Robinson’s interview with the Tory MP Vicky Ford at the end of the last year, in which she did not deny being reduced to tears by the party’s whips, Humphrys piped in with a question to the weather forecaster on next Stav Danaos: “Time for the weather forecast – are you in tears, Stav?”

When Danaos appeared confused by the remark, he repeated: “You’re not in tears, are you?”

Today was accused of having a “blokey joke” at Ford’s expense by one listener.

Saying Mishal Husain was only in a job because she’s “good-looking”

When the then BBC News at Ten newsreader and his future fellow Today presenter Mishal Husain was on Celebrity Mastermind in 2009, Humphrys introduced her as a “newsreader and a very good-looking woman”, before asking: “Are you doing your job only because you are good-looking?”

At the time, Husain accused him of being “obsessed with autocuties”.

I'm a mole, innit.

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It might be a pseudo science, but students take the threat of eugenics seriously

Today’s white nationalists and neo-Nazis make extensive use of racist pseudo-science to bolster their political arguments.

In January, the London Student published my investigation, which showed that the controversial columnist Toby Young attended the London Conference on Intelligence, secretly held at University College London. Shortly afterwards, I mentioned to someone in a pub smoking area that I go to UCL. “Did you hear about the eugenics conference?” he asked me.

He was an international student from Africa. “I applied to UCL partly because I thought it was safer than other universities, but now I’m not so sure. I worry about how many other professors hold the same opinions.”

A protest outside the UCL Provost’s office after the article was published attracted scores of students. “I have a right to come to university and not fear for my safety,” one told the crowd, exasperated. “Nothing has been done, and that’s what really scares me.”

While hecklers derided the protest as an overreaction, students have good reason for taking eugenics seriously. UCL has a long history of support for scientific racism, beginning with Francis Galton, the Victorian polymath who, among other achievements, founded the science of eugenics. UCL’s Galton Chair in National Eugenics, which survived under that name until 1996, was first held by Karl Pearson, another ardent racial eugenicist. Pearson talked about creating a nation from “the better stocks” while conducting war with the “inferior races”, and in 1925 co-authored an article published in the Annals of Eugenics warning of the dangers of allowing Russian and Polish Jewish children into Britain. The London Conference on Intelligence was held in a building named in Pearson’s honour.

Eugenics is most closely associated in the popular imagination with fascism, and the twisted ideology of the Nazi party. Yet racial eugenics was closely linked to wider European imperialism, as illustrated by one object in the Galton collection, contributed by Pearson. Dr. Eugene Fischer’s hair colour scale is a selection of 30 different synthetic hair varieties in a tin box, a continuous scale from European to African. Fischer’s work was used in the early 20th century by Germany to ascertain the whiteness of Namibia’s mixed-race population, even before it was used by the Nazis to design the Nuremburg Laws. In apartheid South Africa, Afrikaans researchers used his tools as late as the 1960s.

Its importance to the imperial project meant that eugenics enjoyed widespread support in British scientific and political establishments. Galton’s Eugenics Society, set up to spread eugenicist ideas and push for eugenic policies, had branches in Birmingham, Liverpool, Cambridge, Manchester, Southampton and Glasgow, drawing hundreds of academics to their meetings. It was a movement of the educated middle class, including leading progressives such as John Maynard Keynes, Marie Stopes and the Fabians. Society presidents hailed from the universities of Edinburgh, Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, and UCL.

With this history in mind, it is easier to understand why students take the UCL eugenics scandal so seriously. Science journalist Angela Saini, who has been researching the history of race science for her upcoming book, argues that the problem lies in the co-opting of pseudoscience for political purposes. “These people are on the fringes, they’re not respected in mainstream academia,” she says. “The problem is when people like Toby Young come in from outside and use these studies to promote their own political agenda.” (Young said he attended the conference purely for research).

The rise of the far-right in Europe and America also means that the tolerance afforded to racist pseudoscience is not a purely academic question. Today’s white nationalists and neo-Nazis make extensive use of racist pseudoscience to bolster their political arguments.

Our investigation into the London Conference on Intelligence uncovered the involvement of at least 40 academics from at least 29 different universities in 15 different countries. Among these was the Oxford academic Noah Carl, a postdoctoral researcher in the social sciences at Nuffield College, who has spoken twice at the London Conference on Intelligence. Carl has also written several papers for Emil Kirkegaard’s OpenPsych, which include two looking at whether larger Muslim populations make Islamist terrorism more likely, and one suggesting that British stereotypes towards immigrants are “largely accurate”.

One external reviewer responded to the last paper by stating that: “It is never OK to publish research this bad, even in an inconsequential online journal.” Nevertheless, the paper was featured by conservative US website The Daily Caller, under a picture of Nigel Farage’s “Breaking Point” poster. The far right European Free West Media cited the paper to claim that “criminal elements are represented by certain ethnic groups”, and on the blog of a far-right French presidential candidate under the headline “Study validates prejudices”. It even ended up on InfoWars, one of the most popular news websites in the USA, and can be found circulating on far-right corners of Reddit. The fact that Carl is linked to Oxford University was mentioned frequently in the coverage, providing legitimacy to the political opinions presented.

Another contributor to the London Conference on Intelligence was Adam Perkins of King’s College London, whose book The Welfare Trait proposed that “aggressive, rule-breaking and anti-social personality characteristics” can be “bred out” of society by reducing child support for those on the lowest incomes. Perkins actively engaged with far-right media outlets in promoting his book, appearing in hour-long interviews with Stefan Molyneux and Tara McCarthy. Molyneux doesn’t “view humanity as a single species because we are not all the same”, and argues that “ordinary Africans were better off under colonialism”. McCarthy was banned from YouTube for alleging a conspiracy to commit “white genocide”, and supports deporting naturalised citizens and “killing them if they resist”. Perkins himself attracted criticism last year for tweeting, alongside data from Kirkegaard, that Trump’s Muslim ban “makes sense in human capital terms”.

Perkins is not the first KCL academic to use his platform to promote contested science in the far-right press. In the 1980s, the Pioneer Fund supported the work of Hans Eysenck, whose work has been credited by his biographer with helping to “revive the confidence” of “right-wing racialist groups” such as the National Front by providing an “unexpected vindication from a respectable scientific quarter”. The original mandate of the Pioneer Fund was the pursuit of “race betterment”; it is considered a hate group by the US civil rights group the Southern Poverty Law Center. KCL did not respond to a request for comment.

An association with a high profile university can help bigots to legitimise their beliefs, but the infiltration of mainstream academia by eugenicists is even more complex than this.

After we exposed his involvement with eugenicists, Toby Young pointed out that the conference at which he actually spoke, that of the International Society for Intelligence Research (ISIR), was “super-respectable” and attended by “numerous world-renowned academics”.

He is entirely correct. The ISIR is home to many great scientists, and its journal Intelligence is one of the most respected in its field. Yet Richard Lynn, who has called for the “phasing out” of the “populations of incompetent cultures”, serves on the editorial board of Intelligence, along with fellow director of the Pioneer Fund Gerhard Meisenberg, who edits Lynn’s journal Mankind Quarterly. Two other board members are Heiner Rindermann and Jan te Nijenhuis, frequent contributors to Mankind Quarterly and the London Conference on Intelligence. Rindermann, James Thompson, Michael Woodley of Menie and Aurelio Figueredo, all heavily implicated in the London Conference on Intelligencehelped to organise recent ISIR conferences. Linda Gottfredson, a Pioneer Fund grantee and former president of the ISIR, famously authored a letter in the Wall Street Journal defending Charles Murray’s assertion that black people are genetically disposed to an average IQ of “around 85”, compared to 100 for whites.

The tolerance afforded to eugenicists threatens the reputation of respectable scientists. Stephen Pinker, the world-renowned cognitive psychologist, spoke at last year’s ISIR conference. Another speaker at the conference, however, was the aforementioned Emil Kirkegaard, a “self-taught” eugenicist who has written a “thought experiment” which discusses whether raping a drugged child could be defended, and whose research into OKCupid made international headlines for its “grossly unprofessional, unethical and reprehensible” use of personal data.

Saini spoke to Richard Haier, editor-in-chief of Intelligence, about the involvement of Lynn and Meisenberg. “He defended their involvement on the basis of academic freedom,” she recalled. “He said he’d prefer to let the papers and data speak for themselves.”

Publishing well-researched papers that happen to be written by eugenicists is one thing, but putting them in positions of editorial control is quite another. “Having researched Lynn and Meisenberg, I fail to understand how Intelligence can justify having these two on the editorial board,” Saini said. “I find that very difficult to understand. Academic freedom does not require that these people are given any more space than their research demands – which for a discredited idea like racial eugenics is frankly minuscule.” I contacted the ISIR but at time of publishing had received no response.

UCL has published several statements about the London Conference on Intelligence since my investigation. In the latest, released on 18 January 2018, the university said it hoped to finish an investigation within weeks. It said it did not and had not endorsed the conference, and had formally complained to YouTube about the use of a doctored UCL logo on videos posted online. UCL’s President described eugenics as “complete nonsense” and added: “I am appalled by the concept of white supremacy and will not tolerate anything on campus that incites racial hatred or violence.” UCL management has also agreed to engage with students concerned about buildings being named after eugenicists.

UCL’s statement also stressed its obligation “to protect free speech on campus, within the law, even if the views expressed are inconsistent with the values and views of UCL”.

Yet there is a direct link between the tolerance of eugenicists in academia and the political rise of the far-right. Journals and universities that allow their reputations to be used to launder or legitimate racist pseudo-science bear responsibility when that pseudo-science is used for political ends. As one UCL student put it: “This is not about freedom of speech – all violence begins with ideas. We feel threatened, and we want answers.”

Ben van der Merwe is a student journalist.