One of Britain’s leading Paralympians has led fierce criticism of the Sun newspaper for running front-page headlines that mocked the speech difficulty of the new England football manager, Roy Hodgson.
Reaction to the story – and particularly the headline, “Bwing on the Euwos! (We’ll see you in Ukwaine against Fwance)” – drew widespread criticism from disabled activists, footballers and fans, with several pointing out that Hodgson speaks five languages, while the Sun “struggles to write in one”.
The Press Complaints Commission has so far received more than 1,000 complaints about the article from members of the public, although Hodgson has said he does not want to lodge a complaint himself.
One of those who reacted on Twitter was David Clarke, who is set to captain Britain’s blind football team at this summer’s Paralympic Games in London, and wrote: “The Sun yet again reaches an all-time low in headlines! God help us when you report the Paralympics!”
He told Disability News Service: “It was appalling. I felt it was wholly inappropriate, but I was completely unsurprised given its source.
“If that is the best they can come up with on the appointment of a new England manager, god help us when we start to see people with some serious disabilities in the summer.”
Stephen Brookes, a coordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network and the retiring chair of the National Union of Journalists’ disabled members council, said the Sun’s front page showed why “disabled people feel that the press are targeting them”.
He added: “What a disgraceful way to report a key story. If anyone can find an excuse I would like to see what it is.”
The Sun has refused to comment on its treatment of the Hodgson story.
I CAN, the children’s communication charity, said the coverage was “disappointing”.
Virginia Beardshaw, I CAN’s chief executive, said Hodgson was “a great role model for all young people with communication difficulties”.
She said: “We know that children with communication difficulties are often at risk of bullying. Therefore it is disappointing to see that Roy Hodgson’s speech has been singled out in the mainstream media for entertainment value.”
The Sun front page appeared only hours after Rupert Murdoch – who heads the Sun’s parent company – was described in a Commons culture, media and sport committee report as “not a fit person” to be running a major international company.
3 May 2012