“I’m sorry, I just find this the most astonishing thing I’ve ever been involved in on television.”
That’s gay Guardian journalist Owen Jones, shortly before storming off the set of a live Sky News broadcast on Sunday night, leaving presenters Mark Longhurst and Julie Hartly-Brewer in the dust.
Jones became increasingly agitated as both presenters insisted on downplaying the all-too clear connection between homosexuality and the Orlando attacks that left 50 people dead and another 53 wounded.
In the below clip, things come to a head after Longhurst interrupts Jones just as he’s emphasizing the fact that Omar Mateen was specifically targeting gay people in his attack, prompted by his disgust at seeing two men kissing.
Longhurst makes a vain attempt to soften the discourse by claiming the victims were “human beings” who were simply “trying to enjoy themselves, whatever their sexuality.”
That’s when Jones finally loses his patience:
I’m sorry, I just find this the most astonishing thing I’ve ever been involved in on television. If [Mateed had] walked into a synagogue and massacred dozens of Jewish people, you wouldn’t be saying what you’re saying now.
You would be talking about it as an anti-semitic attack. This was a deliberate attack on LGBT people.”
Hartley-Brewer, ineptly doing her best to gloss over the palpable tension, says Mateen could have just as easily attacked her, “a gobby woman,” and after that point, Jones proves unwilling to speak further.
After visibly fuming for several minutes as the presenters ramble on inanely, Jones unceremoniously untangles the microphone from his shirt and storms off the set, saying, “I’ve had enough of this, I’m going home,”
Hartley-Brewer is chagrined and chiding: “Everyone’s upset and angry about this, but storming off a TV set…”
Then he’s gone.
It’s utterly maddening to watch:
This morning, Owen discusses his motivations in a Guardian column entitled “On Sky News last night, I realized how far some will go to ignore homophobia”:
I am reluctant to dwell too much on my appearance on Sky News last night, because this isn’t about me, so let’s just use it as a case study. In sum, I walked off in disgust during a discussion about the massacre: it was an instinctive reaction to an unpleasant and untenable situation. The presenter continually and repeatedly refused to accept that this was an attack on LGBT people. This was an attack “against human beings”, he said, and “the freedom of all people to try to enjoy themselves”. He not only refused to accept it as an attack on LGBT people, but was increasingly agitated that I – as a gay man – would claim it as such.”
Today, the “we only care about LGBT rights if Muslims are involved” brigade are out in force. As a gay man, I am proud to live in a city represented by a Muslim mayor who has faced death threats for supporting and voting for LGBT people to have the same rights as everybody else. The bigots must not be allowed to hijack this atrocity.”