Irish Journalist Plays Victim Card on ’Pantigate’ Scandal
Just in time for Easter, allegedly anti-gay Irish journalist that came to international attention in February over a defamation lawsuit involving Irish drag performer/activist Panti Bliss is throwing himself on the metaphorical cross. He is doing so over the incident which made him €40,000 ($55K USD) richer, but has caused him to lose sleep and friends in the media, the Independent reports.
John Waters, is one of the two Irish journalists and right wing Catholic lobby group who received a settlement from Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), Ireland’s national public service medium, after drag-queen-turned-activist Panti Bliss (Rory O’Neill) referred to them homophobic during a television interview. Waters and company sued RTÉ for defamation.
Waters has a long history of making anti-gay rhetoric. Leading up to the RTÉ interview (nicknamed "Pantigate" by the press), he said this of same-sex marriage: "This is really a kind of satire on marriage which is being conducted by the gay lobby. It’s not that they want to get married; they want to destroy the institution of marriage because they’re envious of it..."
Lacking the protection of a U.S.-like First Amendment, and fearing a drawn out battle, RTÉ paid out over €80 thousand (or approximately $110,000 USD.) The settlement angered people all over Ireland and some 2,000 amassed in the following weeks for a demonstration against RTÉ for having caved in. A viral YouTube video of Bliss/O’Neill explaining the case on the stage of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, went viral and catapulted the local drag personality to international stardom.
In his first interview since the incident, Waters takes no time in turning the situation that angered Ireland around to paint himself the victim.
"This is about free speech. It is about the rights of people to speak about what is important without being demonized," he said.
An excerpt from the Sunday Independent interview with Waters reads:
"I won’t go in to Dublin city centre at night. When you have that kind of toxicity generated out of nothing, what are you going to do? It’s not worth it."
"I was walking down the street and a guy on a bicycle shouted ’you f***ing homophobe’ at me before cycling on. I was in a coffee shop on another occasion and a woman waddled over to me with a pram and told me I should be ashamed of myself before walking off. They are cowards, they shout something and keep walking, they don’t want to engage.
"I was frightened almost in a metaphysical way, that people could be so full of hatred. That, in accusing me of hatred, they could manifest a hatred infinitely greater than anything I could possibly imagine."
Waters also said the backlash has adversely affected his health.
"I lost nearly a stone in the first few weeks of this. I didn’t sleep," he said. In addition to his weight, he’s apparently lost a few friends over the incident.
"I have no friends in the media anymore."
The Independent reports he’s considering quitting journalism and leaving Ireland.