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Sunday Times editor apologises for front page article saying public ‘secretly enjoyed’ Prince Philip offensive ‘gaffe’

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 21/04/2021 Tom Ambrose

The editor of The Sunday Times has apologised after a front page story claimed the British public had “secretly enjoyed” an offensive comment made by Prince Philip.

In an article after the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, the paper’s chief foreign correspondent Christina Lamb wrote that he was “an often crotchety figure, offending people with gaffes about slitty eyes, even if we secretly rather enjoyed them”.

The line, which referred to comments Philip made on a trip to China in 1986, did not appear in the online version of the story. 

An online petition accusing the paper of “trivialising racism” had amassed more than 17,000 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.

In a statement, the Sunday Times’ editor Emma Tucker said the paper “apologises for the offence caused” by the piece.

“This so-called ‘gaffe’ made by Prince Philip was a well-known aspect of his life story. The Sunday Times did not intend to condone it,” she said.

“It was noted by us on Saturday night that the sentence was offensive and it was not published in digital editions.

“Christina Lamb has spent her whole career reporting on discrimination and injustices against people in every part of the world and never intended to make light of his remark in any way.”

The assertion that people would have “enjoyed” the comment was criticised by besea.n, an organisation working “to tackle negative stereotypes and to promote positive media representation of East Asian and South East Asian (ESEA) people in the UK”.

A spokesperson told the Standard: “The fact that this comment went into print shows how normalised racism is in our society towards ESEA people.

“The media have the power to shape their audience’s knowledge and understanding of important topics including different cultures, and ‘secretly enjoying’ racist remarks from a prominent figure only encourages others to do it.”

According to the advocacy group End the Virus of Racism, East and South East Asians living in the UK have seen a 300 per cent increase in hate crimes against them in the past year.

Figures from the Metropolitan Police show that between January and June last year they had recorded a total of 457 race-related crimes against people of “Oriental” appearance or those who self-defined as Chinese.

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