tip off

‘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.

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.

  • 1
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I give Fairfax five years, tops.

  • 2
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Umm…Cough…. Perhaps Crikey could give Mike a gig?

  • 3
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Publish the reader letters. The appropriateness of the response can’t be judged otherwise.

  • 4
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Any sort of criticism of Israel’s actions draws an organised, voluminous and vituperative response. Basically a form of mega-trolling. Rational discussion is obliterated by this means. Goebbels would be proud of them!

  • 5
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Have they not been reading his twitter account? He tells people to get fucked on a pretty regular basis. I sometimes disagree with Carlton, but the world is a better place for his views.

  • 6
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    There goes my last reason to read the Saturday SMH

  • 7
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    If you hire Mike I’ll reactivate my subscription that day!!

  • 8
    Diane Bell
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    The cartoon wasn’t anything but thought provoking. Arking up like this showed Mike’s cartoon had touched a nerve. Yes, my Fairfax subscription is looking shaky but Ross Gittins and Peter Martin help keep me sane so there is a reason to stay….
    Good luck Mike.

  • 9
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    So it’s all a conspiracy by “the Jewish lobby” and News Ltd… Oh really? How revealing.

    Mike Carlton also couldn’t resist firing off a parting snide shot at those employers and colleagues who had employed and supported him for decades… The Herald was “a once great newspaper,” he said. So when was it “great”? Two weeks ago when it was still encouraging and paying him handsomely to take pokes at everyone he disagreed with?

    So who will employ him now? I hope not Crikey, please… Let him go to New Matilta or Green Left Weekly, who no doubt agree with his “progressive” views about Israel.

    And yes, it does sound like The Australian was stirring the stew… Well, tit for tat, Carlton regularly got stuck into News Ltd’s journalists and staff with the all the venom that is now typical of ” progressive left-wing” opinion.

    Now, when did “left wing” become so poisonous, intolerant of diverse opinion, authoritarian and quite frankly, racist?

    I’m not going to cancel my Herald sub over this. I did that a long time ago.

  • 10
    zak lloyd
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    So Fairfax it is OK for red neck readers to get stuck into Mike and call him every abusive name known, but he must not respond in kind. Well fuk you and your papers, I will stick to social media and the Independent press. We know the Torys havent got their grubby scheming lying paws all over them.

  • 11
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I’ve just cancelled my SMH subscription, and I urge others to do the same. There seems to have been orchestrated pressure by the Israel lobby on Fairfax to dump Carlton over the original column, not his intemperate responses to criticism. Let’s show them we have the numbers. I’ll resubscribe if Mike Carlton is reinstated.

  • 12
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    So where are the apologies from the rascist trolls who attacked Carlton…

  • 13
    Alex Smith
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I will subscribe with real money to Crikey if Mike is on here..I am sick of vested power interests running my country.. he gave fair comment where it was due and he has been vilified in a coordinated attack by News and the Likuud front

  • 14
    My Comment
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Carlton light is now Carlton bitter? Small beer in any case.

  • 15
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm, I see Andrew Bolt is defending free speech yet again folks??

  • 16
    Lach Hud
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    I too have cancelled my Saturday subscription to the Sydney Morning Herald this morning over this abject cowardice by their management to pressure from the far right and worse still the nutters at News Corp.

    If the people funning Fairfax had even an ounce of common sense they’d be showing this cowardly, and obviously not very bright, muppet, Sean Aylmer the door today and begging Carlton to come back.

    Other publications are no doubt on the phone today trying to sign him and his loyal readership base up. Fairfax are experts it seems in destroying their own business.

  • 17
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Where’s the Commissioner for Free Speech when you want him?

  • 18
    Dennis Bauer
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Good on you Mike you got real courage, what a bunch of bloody Hypocrites, don’t know if that is spelt right but it is supposed to mean Muddock’s goons, there is people in the ABC that are frighting of him, does he run nearly all the media in Australia by proxy??. I hope Crikey can help you if that was your desire, I promise Crikey $20.00 if they hire you, it’s a pittance but every bit counts. A few more may feel like me, because in todays climate you have courage. Thank you.

  • 19
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Mike insulted five SMH readers.. when you alienate 30% of the customers you probably do have to go..

  • 20
    Tom Jones
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Mike’s acerbic wit will be missed at the SMH. It is amazing to watch how some non performer will dig away at someone who can deliver. Sally Pearson seems an apt comparison.

  • 21
    My Comment
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Crikey, please don’t hire Carlton. I want to read thoughtful articles by authors who are willing to consider the issues, not those who abuse readers who disagree with their viewpoints.

  • 22
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    This could be the final straw for my smh subscription too. I’m currently contemplating my Crikey renewal…

  • 23
    David Hand
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    This is a step forward for efficient reading of publications and newspapers. Carlton can go and write for the Guardian, thus corralling all the lefty journos in one place where they can then be ignored by the rest of us.

    I encourage all current Guardian subscribers to keep it up so it doesn’t go down the gurgler like every other left wing ghetto outlet (except Crikey). Otherwise, when it fails, Carlton, Lenore Taylor, First Dog and all those other ideologues of the left might return to the mainstream.

  • 24
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    The Fairfax newsroom must be empty.

  • 25
    Dogs breakfast
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    If someone writes abusive personal emails to you, and you respond with personal abuse, it hardly warrants a suspension. Personal emails are just that.

    Of course it is a little more complex, most people would appreciate that you can’t respond to effwit customers in the voice you would prefer, from your work email, but in journalism isn’t authenticity a currency with some value?

    Or perhaps I am still too naive for my own good. As someone who has to hold his tongue, I appreciate that people like Carlton are given a voice.

    The Jewish response to any criticism is the same as their response to Gazan rockets; disproportionate, contemptible, unethical, unreasoned, outrageous.

    I would be looking forward to any Carlton commentary on Crikey.

  • 26
    zut alors
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Agree with Paddy @ post #2. Fairfax may have handed News Corp a gift but Crikey is being given a prime opportunity now that Carlton is available.

    There’s no longer any reason to read the SMH; I used to enjoy kickstarting Saturday mornings with Mike’s wit & wisdom.

  • 27
    gerri willesee
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Mike Carlton got it right. The Jewish lobby is the bane of journalists lives. I once criticised Israel’s actions on a radio station then owned by the NSW Labor Council. By the time I got off-air head honcho John MacBean was waiting in the office. He made clear that Jews and Israel were off my agenda. I didn’t agree. Ita Buttrose took the job.

    My memory of the Jewish lobby - it’s large and effective and persistently persistent and wastes so much time they should be billed for it.

  • 28
    harry freedman
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I challenge carlton to produce the emails he responded to when he was rude and offensive. I have seen 4 of them and his rude, irrational and factually void responses were not justified. He may well have received other abusive emails which may or may not have justified a rude response. but he chooses to use that as an overall excuse for his unjustified misconduct to others.
    another deception from a journo claiming to have the higher moral ground

  • 29
    gerri willesee
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    And by the way - Give Mike Carlton his column back. I’m teetering on the edge of cancelling my sub.

  • 30
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Not understanding the Carlton cheer squad here… If you are anti-Murdoch and anti-Isreali, you will be forgiven anything.

    But quite frankly, if I abused my employer’s customers and told them to “F — - off”, I would not expect to last the day out.

  • 31
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Independent Always”… what bullsh*t! Predictably gutless performance by SMH management.

  • 32
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Remarkably, it took 28 comments before the obvious point was made.

    Carlton is old enough to know that swearing at one’s customers is not acceptable in any organisation.

    His writings may be great on occasion, but a line must be drawn somewhere and he crossed it. Whether or not I might get to read the original comments and Carlton’s response is irrelevant.

    The point is the clear lack of respect for others, regardless of how well or otherwise they phrased their disagreement. No employer should be asked to tolerate language like that from a senior professional staffer or, in fact, from any employee. Ever.

    Unless he can demonstrate that he will in future act civilly, I suggest that Mike Carlton plan his retirement, starting yesterday.

  • 33
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    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.

  • 34
    zut alors
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    It’s obvious Mike Carlton has borne plenty abuse over the years from offended readers, people who disagree, nutters etc. I imagine his hands have been tied much of the time in defending himself - despite a percentage of the communications he’s received being abusive and personal.

    It’s understandable that Carlton reached saturation point - age delivers the bonus that one often doesn’t give a toss for the consequences any more. Had I written him an abusive email I would’ve been primed & prepared to cop one back.

    But such a reaction requires thick skin.

  • 35
    Gratton Wilson
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I’m not suggesting that Mike is a bigot but what happened to his right to be one? What happened to his right to speak his mind to the people who directed their communications at him? How come an employer can suspend employment for extracurricular activities?

  • 36
    John Taylor
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    I suppose David Hand we would be all better off absorbing the blitherings of the nutjobs and spitebats employed by Murdoch? At least they are all confined to the Limited News Sty, where we can ignore them?

  • 37
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Give Carlton a gig, Crikey!

  • 38
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Goodsir and Aylmer are so terrible that often times their editorials sound like Andrew Bolt has written them. They are destroying once great papers.

    Carlton’s cartoon was spot on, even if he didn’t do it. The Jews in Sderot were sitting on the hills and partying as they watched the bombs murder innocent children. I am sick to death of the Australia Jewish lobby poisoning everything.

  • 39
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Why is everyone assuming these were even Fairfax customers? Anyone can send an email to Mike at his SMH address from anywhere in the world. We all know how quick the hasbara brigades are to attack any criticism of the Israeli government.

  • 40
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    I just heard Richard Glover describe the readers who trolled Carlton with abusive emails as “customers” which means he, like the Fairfax proprietors just doesn’t get the relationship between readers and writers in the age of interactive journalism.
    It is no longer the case of journalist =knowledge, reader = response. There is a dialogue, a discussion, a debate. If one party degenerates into racist abuse and slime talk, the other party is perfectly entitled to tell them to F*** Off.
    Carlton made the right call.

  • 41
    David Hand
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Not to be confined to Murdoch at all John.
    When Gina rescues Fairfax, we can see an improvement in their news balance as well.

    But don’t be sad. You’ve still got the ABC.

  • 42
    zut alors
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Great point made by RoseL - what proof is there this handful of wounded souls are Fairfax readers/supporters?

    Sean Aylmer continues the recent tradition of appalling business decisions by Fairfax having alienated god-only-knows how many thousands of Carlton devotees for the sake of a vocal few.The few aren’t going to save Fairfax - someone please explain it to Aylmer.

  • 43
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    But not for long David, Tony is under orders from Lord Murdoch to close down the ABC. So no doubt it will happen - we all know who is running this country.

  • 44
    Patrick Brosnan
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Fairfax are a bunch of idiots. If they think they are making some sort of moral stand then they are complete morons, The Australian is making merry at their expense and the point that Carlton legitimately made WRT to Israel’s immoral actions in Gaza has been lost. We have lost one of the few voices brave enough to call the Israeli government for the callous murderers of children that they are. Supporters of Israel would claim that I was an anti-semite for that last sentence, and they’d be showing themselves to be calculating fanatics. Unfortunately they now have the field, the cowardly bullies.

  • 45
    Patrick Brosnan
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    swearing at one’s customers is not acceptable”
    Remarkably it took twenty eight comments for some right wingers to embarrass themselves with their intellectual shallowness. Swearing at “ones” (oh it sooo hard to get good help these days) customers is probably ‘bad form’ if you work in Myer, however there is a rich history of the creative arts telling critics to fuck off when those critics are simply abusive morons. ‘One’ finds this entirely acceptable.

  • 46
    John Taylor
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    So balance is when all the media says is all one way David Hand? Sounds like fascism to me. Actually, we’ll have independent media - as well as the ABC which has been constantly identified as the most trusted news source in the country - across political lines too. Funny how you rusted on con-artists never seem to be able to explain that one. My only other question though is that given you despise anything that does not toe your exceedingly narrow and unimaginative line - why are you trolling Crikey?

  • 47
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    If you take last Sunday’s reported Zionist flash mob of 7000 who met in a Dover Heights park following a call to arms via text, and you add say another 10,000 such Zionists from Melb, plus another 1000 each in Perth, Adelaide & Queensland, that’s a cyber total flash mob of 20 thousand.

    One text call from the Executive Council of Jewry (ECAJ)to all 20 thousand to bomb Carlton’s email with sat at least 3 emails, means that a total of 60 thousand emails is obviously possible…thus the crash of his Google email site.

    I suggest that Crikey posters & their friends return the favour by posting a suitable message on the ECAJ website…just Google ECAJ & hit Contact.

    I intend spreading this campaign via Facebook.

  • 48
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    There goes my SMH subscription - so sad to lose this most acerbic and entertaining columnist. Guardian and Crikey should bring him on board!

  • 49
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    The freedom of speech and, ipso facto, the right of journalists to question the status quo has reached its nadir.

    The Fairfax press, granted their temporary reprieve from financial annihilation, have proceeded to piss their goodwill against the nearest wall-perhaps Gina the Rhine Maiden has already bought out the company? The lengthy coverage of the little boy whose parent/s left him was as rancid a coverage of anything the Hun could come up with. Icky wicky sugary self-indulgent tripe.

    If the so called comments by the outraged pro-Israel commentariat isn’t the work of the Jewish lobby I’ll eat the grass in their leader’s lawn.

  • 50
    David Hand
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    It’s simple John.
    I trust the ABC.
    I believe it has a left wing bias.
    I trust the Australian.
    I think it has a right wing bias.