Leo Varadkar has responded to the serious backlash he’s received after comments he made at a private lunch in New York.
According to reports in The Irish Times and the Ireland Edition of The Times, the Taoiseach told guests at the lunch that he had some sympathy with Trump’s attitude to the press, and he allegedly claimed that political reporters spent more time covering gossip.
Speaking in the Dáil today, the Taoiseach said, “I profoundly regret if anyone in the country thinks I don’t respect journalism or a free press.”
The Taoiseach went on to insist he “strongly believed that a free press was important in a democracy.”
Mary Lou McDonald called out the Taoiseach saying, “You were in sympathy with Donald Trump and you believed Irish journalists had no interest in the truth.”
She was unimpressed as she said, “You have attacked Irish investigative journalism and cited RTÉ in particular.”
The Sinn Féin leader stated that if Varadkar was genuinely worried about the media, he “might have remarked on the issue of media ownership and in particular the power of Denis O’Brien in the media landscape.”
She slammed him by saying, “You just wanted to have a go.”
The Taoiseach further defended himself alleging that his words were taken out of context at the “two-hour lunch with young Irish people living in New York to hear what their thoughts were”.
“I said a lot of positive things about media – I acknowledged the Me Too movement and Harvey Weinstein and exposing him.”
“I also said that I thought I got a fair hearing in general from the media. None of that was reported.”
Every major Irish media outlet spent a four-figure sum following the Taoiseach to New York this week to cover exactly the sort of topics he’s complaining we ignore.
To say this sort of thing behind our backs, at an event closed off to us, is really poor form. https://t.co/pKhwmswm2n
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) July 3, 2018
Irish journalists were shocked by Leo’s comments at the lunch, and called for him to clarify his stance.
Gavan Reilly, the political correspondent for TV3, pointed out the expense Irish news outlets went to to cover the Taoiseach’s journey to America.
He tweeted, “Every major Irish media outlet spent a four-figure sum following the Taoiseach to New York this week to cover exactly the sort of topics he’s complaining we ignore.”
“To say this sort of thing behind our backs, at an event closed off to us, is really poor form. ”
— Jon Williams (@WilliamsJon) July 4, 2018
Meanwhile, Jon Williams, the Managing Director of RTÉ News, highlighted Trump’s worrying words that sparked Varadkar’s comments.
“To be clear, #Trump called the media ‘enemy of the people’. He’s wrong.”
“If Taoiseach really sympathises with that view, he’s wrong too,” he stated.