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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.

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.

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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. wilful

    I give Fairfax five years, tops.

  2. paddy

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

  3. caf

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

  4. pritu

    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. JimDocker

    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. Robert

    There goes my last reason to read the Saturday SMH

  7. Aton

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

  8. Diane Bell

    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. Russell

    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

    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.

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