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Jody McIntyre, who has cerebral palsy, is shown above in a BBC interview. Complaints flooded in after McIntyre was compared to a wheelchair-bound comedy character by a Daily Mail columnist. (Credit: Screen shot detail, YouTube, "BBC")

A Daily Mail column has provoked serious reader disapproval, The Guardian reported. As of Dec. 14, more than 500 complaints were reportedly filed with the UK Press Complaint Commission (PCC).

The column, by Richard Littlejohn, “compared student fees protester Jody McIntyre to Matt Lucas’s Little Britain creation Andy.”  (See Littlejohn’s column here.)

Little Britain is a sketch comedy show aired on the BBC.  Andy is a character described as “wheelchair-bound.”

McIntyre is “a disabled protester who has cerebral palsy” and uses a wheelchair. As the Independent noted,  “McIntyre was seen on video this week being dragged across the street by police after being tipped out of his wheelchair during protests in London over rises in student tuition fees.”

According to the Guardian, the complaints movement was fueled online in a Twitter campaign for PCC complaints.

As Editors Weblog noted, the PCC operates independent of news organizations in Britain and “normally accepts complaints only from those directly affected by the article.”  As a result, the PCC reportedly intends “to contact McIntyre directly.”

Littlejohn’s Dec. 14 column covered a few topics, including the Stockholm bomber, McInytre and a 58-year-old woman “who has travelled the world” seeking to be impregnated.  It currently features 138 comments.

He directly made the comparison, writing that “Jody Mcintyre is like Andy from Little Britain” along with a mock dialogue.

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Meanwhile, the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade commented on the controversy, saying that he doesn’t see the PCC taking any action over the column:

“There was no factual inaccuracy. Littlejohn is a columnist. He has a right to be offensive, even obnoxious. That’s his job.
His piece was not based on a prejudice against McIntyre because of his disability (nor was he exhibiting a prejudice against all disabled people). If so, I would take a different view.

“In this case, I sincerely hope that McIntyre is sensible enough to ignore any pressure to complain.”

McIntyre addressed Littlejohn’s column in a Dec. 15 blog for the Independent.  After addressing the protest, McIntyre commented:

“Adding insult to injury is The Daily Mail, which found it appropriate to suggest I’m faking my disability and am mentally inept when it comes to making decisions about my actions. Highlighting a somewhat backwards attitude towards disabled people and their place in society, that over 500 people have already complained about Richard Littlejohn’s depiction of me as Andy from Little Britain (I don’t wear vests for a start), shows whose side the public are on when it comes to what’s acceptable where mocking disability is concerned.”

The Guardian noted that the BBC was also criticized and has received complaints over its interview with McIntyre.

iMediaEthics is writing to Littlejohn for comment and will update with any response.

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500 Reader Complaints Over Richard Littlejohn’s Daily Mail Jody McIntyre Column

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3 Responses

  1. Autonomous Mind says:

    As a regular reader I think it’s only appropriate to bring to your attention some background on Jody McIntyre that you seem to have missed. After all it seems only appropriate that balance is achieved. http://order-order.com/2010/12/14/wheels-come-off-protesters-complaint/.  In ‘Little Britain’ the character Andy gets out of the wheelchair when it suits him. In comparison, McIntyre – on his own blog – told how he walked up 18 flights of stairs to reach the top of a building from where a fire extinguisher was dropped within inches of a policeman. I wonder how many of the 500 complainants are students angry at the mocking of one of their leading demonstration activists and how many are aware of McIntyre’s behaviour during those protests – including attempting to hit a police office.

  2. Rhonda Roland Shearer, StinkyJournalism.org editor says:

    Thank you for being a regular reader and for the additional information. If Jody McIntyre threw an object off a roof and almost killed someone–this is, of course, unacceptable behavior. Our story was narrow and focused only on the 500 letters sent in to the PCC protesting a columnist making fun of McIntyre’s disability.

    Our balance can be found, I hope, in the section where we quote the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade who said he doesn’t see the PCC taking any action over the column. We didn’t suggest any opinion that I can see. I don’t want to excuse but to explain too that Media Picks, as you likely know from our content, are short media round-ups with some original reporting, in contrast with our lengthy news stories that include more context.

    Anyway, I think you raise very interesting issues. It made me think. My conclusion is that even if McIntyre would have killed someone with his alleged stupid stunt, this would not balance (or justify) a columnist mocking him for his disabilities.

  3. Autonomous Mind says:

    Thanks for your reply Rhonda. Please note, I did not suggest and there is no evidence that Jody McIntyre threw anything from Millbank, only that he was present with other demonstrators. The key point is that while depicting himself as wheelchair-bound he is capable of walking up 18 flights of stairs, and separately, standing up having been sat on a wall and trying to assault a police officer. This is why Littlejohn likened him to the ‘Andy’ character. If McIntyre was wheelchair-bound then Littlejohn’s mockery would have been misplaced. As it is, Littlejohn has drawn an apt and humouros comparison based on McIntyre’s own blog comments.

    Best wishes and keep up the good work.

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