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Journalism

Aug 6, 2014

'I hit back and told people to get fucked': Mike Carlton explains why he quit

Former Fairfax columnist Mike Carlton says the decision to suspend him came from Fairfax metro chief Sean Aylmer, who overruled Sydney Morning Herald editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir.

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Former Fairfax columnist Mike Carlton says the decision to suspend him came from Fairfax business and metro publisher Sean Aylmer, who overruled Sydney Morning Herald editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir in deciding to suspend Carlton for four to six weeks after reports he had been abusive to readers in emails surfaced in The Australian.

Carlton says after he wrote a column two weeks ago criticising Israel’s actions in Gaza, he’s received endless abuse from offended readers.

“I’ve been called a bag of Nazi slime, a Jew-hating racist … endlessly,” he told Crikey this morning. “Much of it has been obscene. I suppose, half-a-dozen times, I hit back and told people to get fucked”.

One of these emails surfaced on Andrew Bolt’s blog on Monday, and in today’s edition of The Australian, several of Carlton’s abusive responses to readers are extracted.

This morning, Aylmer went on Fairfax-owned radio station 2UE and told Garry Linnell and John Stanley that Carlton and Fairfax had “parted ways”.

“Many readers wrote to Mike but what got him into trouble is the way [Carlton] responded to those readers, and it was totally inappropriate and using inappropriate language,” Aylmer said. “It’s important to stress it’s not the [original] article itself but the way he treated readers.

“Yesterday the editor-in-chief of the Herald Darren Goodsir rang him and said, ‘You need to apologise’. As the afternoon rolled on we spoke to him last night and as more of these emails emerged we spoke to him again and said we would suspend him, and he resigned on the spot.”

Carlton said he agreed to apologise to “a handful of readers”.

“That was all going to happen and it was fine. But as I understand it, Darren [Goodsir] was overruled higher up by a man called Sean Aylmer.”

In a statement this morning, Aylmer confirmed the decision to suspend Carlton was his.

“Last night I decided that an apology from Carlton was not sufficient and I suspended him. He subsequently resigned,” Aylmer said. “Such conduct will not be tolerated. Fairfax expects much higher standards from its staff, columnists and contributors.”

Carlton says there’s no doubt there was a co-ordinated campaign to oust him by the Israel lobby in Australia. “That was twinned by a campaign by News Corp — because they hate my guts, but also because it destroyed a rival columnist. And now, Fairfax has handed News Corp that present, gift-wrapped.”

“What cheers me up is that I’m getting tremendous support from Herald colleagues who I respect, and colleagues right throughout journalism.”

Several Fairfax senior reporters have shared their regret at the paper losing Carlton this morning. Gold Walkley-winning investigative journalist Kate McClymont tweeted that today was “a grim day for our profession”.

SMH and Age contributing editor Michael Pascoe described Carlton as one of Fairfax’s “best columnists”.

“To lose one of your best columnists may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness,” he tweeted, referring to the loss of legal writer Richard Ackland, who parted ways with the SMH in June after writing a column for The Saturday Paper.

Broadcaster Phillip Adams also tweeted his regret, saying it was a shame to lose Carlton. “Mutual hostility for many years but Mike writes a good column,” he said. “Will be missed.”

Last night Goodsir issued an apology to readers for Carlton’s abusive emails:

 “This behavior is completely unacceptable,” he wrote. “I have asked Mike to apologise for these actions. Mike regrets his behaviour and will be contacting affected readers to apologise.

“On behalf of the Herald, I too apologise for any offence caused.

“In dealing with our readers, it is a basic principle that our staff, columnists and contributors should always behave with respect and courtesy.”

It was the second apology issued by Goodsir in two days — on Monday, the SMH’s editorial apologised for the cartoon that had illustrated Carlton’s article two weeks ago.

Myriam Robin — Media Reporter

Myriam Robin

Media Reporter

Myriam has been Crikey’s media reporter since 2014. Before that, she was a business journalist with sister site SmartCompany, covering economics and corporate strategy.

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92 comments

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92 thoughts on “‘I hit back and told people to get fucked’: Mike Carlton explains why he quit

  1. Marks

    The preciousness and hypocrisy of people to be offended by a swear word while the mangled corpses of children are still warm. Such warped perspectives and values are rancid.

    Can you imagine if it were your children?

    I’m sick to death of the Australian press censoring criticism of Israeli policy and human rights violations. I’m offended that we quake in our boots in fear of being labeled ‘anti-semites’ for speaking up for innocent people who are not Jewish. If innocent Jews are killed, apparently it’s ok for us to show concern.

    In Australia we allow dual citizens (Jewish – Israeli – Australians) to train and fight in the IDF and others here in our community support Israeli military adventures openly. Just why should this be beyond scrutiny and criticism?

    How come the ‘anti-semite’ label has became a dog whistle that makes our press and politicians cower and scrape upon command?

    Criticising Israel policy is clearly not being antisemitic, especially since many Jews don’t support Israel, zionism or the narrative used to account for Israel forming the identity of ‘Jewishness’.

    Like any other culture/country/religion/people Israel and the Jewish community has its fair share of crazies and extremists – more than its fair share I would suggest – that need to be held to account for their action in a secular society.

    The difference seems to be that if you are Jewish you can play the racist card at the same time you actively support apartheid and killing children. Enough of this double standard; get on with the business of debate and let’s stand up for secular values and human rights in Australia irrespective of race, colour and creed.

    In my book this requires calling a spade a spade. So, call me an anti-semite and I’ll tell you to f**k off as well. This is truly an idiotic and insulting label given the political and human rights context that devalues debate and controls language for the benefit of bigots who want to silence dissent.

  2. Mike R

    Ian, with your comments (90) I see you are a great fan of the Tony Abbott system of ranking into goodies and baddies. Would you care to share your rankings for all the 193 member countries of the UN? It would make interesting reading.

    I know your rating system is highly personal but I would dispute your rating of Russia of not being a bad guy . The human rights record of Russia currently is not brilliant especially with regard to gay rights and political dissent. Also ask the inhabitants of Chechnya, in particular Grozny for their opinion,see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Grozny_(1999%E2%80%932000). You can get a complete catalog of the abuse of human rights in Russia by Putin and his cronies here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Russia .

    I am however happy that you, like the U.S., consider North Korea and Iran baddies.

    Finally, what about using your rating expertise with regard to non-state players such as Hamas, Jaish al-Islam (Gaza), Army of Islam (Gaza and Egypt), Hezbollah, Isis(L), Boko Harem, Ansaru , Al Nusra, the Afghanistanian Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, Islamic Jihad, Al Shabab, Riyad-us Saliheen Brigade of Martyrs, Al Quaeda (Global franchise) , Al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Magreb, Jemaah Islamiyah. Lashkar-e-Taiba , Jaish-e-Mohammed, Abu Sayyaf Group, Jemmah Anshorut Tauhid, Laskar Jundullah Islamic Militia, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh , Ansar Dine etc. ?

    Ian, too bad you have scarpered off before the hard work was done.

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