On Sunday night, gay Guardian journalist Owen Jones stormed off the set of a live Sky News broadcast covering the Orlando massacre, abruptly leaving presenters Mark Longhurst and Julie Hartly-Brewer in the dust.
In the uncomfortable and infuriating clip, Jones becomes increasingly agitated while both presenters glibly insist on downplaying any extraordinary connection between homosexuality and the Orlando attacks, which left 50 people dead and another 53 wounded.
The absurd broadcast comes to a head after Longhurst interrupts Jones — just as he’s emphasizing the fact that Omar Mateen specifically targeting gay people in his attack, inspired by the disgust he felt witnessing two men kissing.
Longhurst tries softening the discourse. He claims the victims were “human beings” “trying to enjoy themselves, whatever their sexuality.”
That’s when Jones loses all patience.
I’m sorry, I just find this the most astonishing thing I’ve ever been involved in on television. If [Mateed had] walked into a synagogue and massacred dozens of Jewish people, you wouldn’t be saying what you’re saying now.
You would be talking about it as an anti-semitic attack. This was a deliberate attack on LGBT people.”
Hartley-Brewer attempts to gloss over the palpable tension, claiming Mateen just as easily could have attacked her, “a gobby woman.”
That comment is the last straw for Jones, who doesn’t speak for several minutes.
Finally, Jones untangles the microphone from his shirt and storms off the set, saying, “I’ve had enough of this, I’m going home,”
Hartley-Brewer attempts to shame him: “Everyone’s upset and angry about this, but storming off a TV set…”
Then he’s gone.
On Monday morning, Owen writes about his motivations in a Guardian column entitled “On Sky News last night, I realized how far some will go to ignore homophobia”:
I am reluctant to dwell too much on my appearance on Sky News last night, because this isn’t about me, so let’s just use it as a case study. In sum, I walked off in disgust during a discussion about the massacre: it was an instinctive reaction to an unpleasant and untenable situation. The presenter continually and repeatedly refused to accept that this was an attack on LGBT people. This was an attack “against human beings”, he said, and “the freedom of all people to try to enjoy themselves”. He not only refused to accept it as an attack on LGBT people, but was increasingly agitated that I – as a gay man – would claim it as such.”
Today, the “we only care about LGBT rights if Muslims are involved” brigade are out in force. As a gay man, I am proud to live in a city represented by a Muslim mayor who has faced death threats for supporting and voting for LGBT people to have the same rights as everybody else. The bigots must not be allowed to hijack this atrocity.”