'Not fair' to brand JK Rowling 'a transphobic bigot'

‘Not fair’ to brand JK Rowling ‘a transphobic bigot’: Irish broadcasting regulator says ‘no evidence’ for guest’s claim on Today FM show

  • Panelist on Today FM show branded JK Rowling a ‘transphobic bigot’ last year 
  • Broadcasting Authority of Ireland upheld complaint that comment was ‘not fair’ 
  • Radio boss said remark made in a ‘lively miscellany’ which ‘encourages’ debate

An Irish broadcasting regulator has ruled it was ‘not fair’ for a radio show panelist to brand JK Rowling a ‘transphobic bigot’ without evidence. 

The author, who has been furiously criticised for a raft of comments in recent years, was dubbed a ‘transphobia bigot’ on The Last Word with Matt Cooper in September 2020.  

Complaints were made following the Today FM broadcast, and Ireland’s top regulator has now ruled it was ‘not fair’ to make the comment as there was no ‘evidence’ to ‘back up’ the claim Rowling was ‘transphobic.’ 

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) said the hosts had failed to challenge the statement, ruling that the Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs was breached. 

It is the first time the BAI has endorsed a complaint in almost three years.  

JK Rowling, who has been furiously criticised for a raft of comments in recent years, was dubbed a ‘transphobia bigot’ on The Last Word with Matt Cooper in September 2020.

Last June, Rowling sparked controversy when she questioned the use of the phrase ‘people who menstruate’ instead of the word ‘woman’ and went on to insist that the concept of sex is real

Her remarks led to a backlash from stars including Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter in the film franchise of the series, and Eddie Redmayne, who stars in Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts films

The complainant claimed that during the September 18 show – a round-up of that week’s affairs – a contributor accused Rowling of being ‘transphobic without providing any evidence.’

They added this statement wasn’t challenged by the presenter, claiming the segment had lacked balance, impartiality or objectivity.      

However, Today FM insisted the radio segment was a ‘lively miscellany in which opinions are encouraged.’

Radio bosses stressed that the story came up while the panel discussed a number of tweets made by Irish duo Jedward ‘in which hey criticised several celebrities for comments they had made about Covid-19 and the wearing of masks.’

They added: ‘The panel also mentioned that Jedward had tweeted about JK Rowling, specifically her comments regarding transgender people. 

Pictured: Today FM host Matt Cooper

‘It was in this context that the discussion regarding Rowling occurred.’ 

Today FM also insisted that this was not a current affairs piece, and had it been, they would have included guests ‘to represent both sides of the argument.’       

In its ruling, the BAI said: ‘The Committee were of the view that, given the seriousness of the statements made by the panel member, and the lack of challenge by the presenter, the broadcast was not fair. As such, the Committee upheld this complaint.’    

The contested accusation was made months after Rowling was condemned for mocking an online article which used the words ‘people who menstruate’ instead of ‘women’. 

She was hit by what she described as ‘relentless attacks’ after she wrote: ‘I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?’

The acclaimed novelist then penned a deeply personal essay to address the controversy, revealing she was sexually assaulted in her 20s and saying she still feels the scars of ‘domestic violence’ in her first marriage.  

She said she was a ‘domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor’ and was in a ‘violent’ first marriage to Portuguese journalism student Jorge Arantes. Pictured: The former couple with their daughter Jessica, who is now 26



 Ms Rowling was also subjected to bitter attacks from transgender activists following the publication of her latest novel, Troubled Blood

Her remarks led to a massive backlash with criticism coming from fans and Harry Potter stars including Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Eddie Redmayne.   

But actor Robbie Coltrane – who played Rubeus Hagrid in the movies – told the Radio Times: ‘I don’t think what she said was offensive really. 

‘I don’t know why but there’s a whole Twitter generation of people who hang around waiting to be offended. 

He added: ‘That’s me talking like a grumpy old man, but you just think, “Oh, get over yourself”.’

She was also defended by Eddie Izzard, who recently insisted she doesn’t believe the Harry Potter author is transphobic.

Izzard said: ‘I don’t think JK Rowling is transphobic. I think we need to look at the things she has written about in her blog.

‘Women have been through such hell over history. Trans people have been invisible, too. I hate the idea we are fighting between ourselves, but it’s not going to be sorted with the wave of a wand.

‘I don’t have all the answers. If people disagree with me, fine – but why are we going through hell on this?’  

JK Rowling pictured with Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson in 2001

Ms Rowling was also subjected to bitter attacks from transgender activists following the publication of her latest novel, Troubled Blood.

The novel is published under Rowling’s pseudonym Robert Galbraith and features a ‘transvestite serial killer’, which sparked furious backlash online a day before the book’s release on September 15.  

A collection of over 50 actors, writers, playwrights, journalists joined together to pen a letter in response to ‘hate speech’ directed against Rowling. 

Rowling has found herself at the forefront of the trans debate and has been targeted by trans campaigners who called for her to be ‘cancelled’ after she spoke out

Signatories of the letter include Booker winner Ian McEwan, actor Griff Rhys Jones, actress Frances Barber and playwright Sir Tom Stoppard.

It was was triggered in response to the hashtag #RIPJKRowling trending at number one on Twitter and said Rowling was a victim of ‘an insidious, authoritarian and misogynistic trend in social media’.

The letter wrote the hashtag declaring her dead on social media was ‘just the latest example of hate speech directed against her’.    

Defending her comments, Rowling previously said: ‘If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased.

‘I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.

‘The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women – i.e., to male violence – ‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences – is a nonsense.’

She continued: ‘I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans.

‘At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.’   

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