The newly appointed editor of Gay Times has been suspended after it emerged he tweeted a series of antisemitic and misogynistic comments as well as attacking gay people, homeless people and disabled children.
Josh Rivers, who took the position in October, is the first BME editor of a gay men’s magazine, and took on the role with a mandate to promote inclusivity and diversity.
However, he published a series of incendiary comments on his Twitter account between 2010 and 2015. The tweets, which have since been deleted, show Rivers describing Jews as “gross”, and sending numerous messages directing hatred towards lesbians, overweight people, and Asians and Chinese.
“I wonder if they cast that guy as ‘The Jew’ because of that fucking ridiculously larger honker of a nose,” he tweeted in 2011. “It must be prosthetic. Must be.”
In another tweet he asked for film recommendations but excluded films about the Holocaust.
Gay Times released a statement soon after the tweets emerged, confirming he had been suspended.
“Josh Rivers’ past tweets do not align with the values of Gay Times, or any of our employees, in any capacity,” the magazine said. “Josh has been suspended with immediate effect while we investigate the facts. Appropriate action will be taken in due course.”
Rivers’ tweets directed at women included: “I’ve just seen a girl in the tightest white tank & lord help me if she’s not pregnant, she should be killed. #gross.”
Another abusive message said that “whiny” women should “change your tampon” and stay out of his way.
He described one woman he encountered on a train as a “chav” and called her children “incested” as well as using other abusive language suggesting they had disabilities.
On another occasion he tweeted: “I’m thankful for TFL & rising bus fares. Let’s keep homeless people on the streets & off our buses!”
While Gay Times was set up in 1984 to give a voice to gay men across all communities, Rivers’ tweets also contained abuse of Asian gay men and transgender people. Fat shaming was also a theme in his tweets.
Rivers tweeted an apology on Tuesday and said in an accompanying statement that at the time he faced “issues that prevented me from treating people with the respect and kindness I value so dearly now”.
To every single person who is hurt, offended and disappointed: I’m sorry. pic.twitter.com/XAwz7llKxc — Josh Rivers (@_joshrivers) November 15, 2017
Speaking to Buzzfeed, which uncovered the tweets during research for an interview with Rivers, he said they revealed an “immaturity and self-loathing” he had at that time, but was adamant he had changed in the last two years.
“I think it shows that before recently I hadn’t been aware of the effects that social media and using platforms in such a nasty and pernicious way had,” he said. “It shows I have grown.”
Rivers also attributed his prejudices to his environment. “I am a product of my environment – like many of us are,” he said, adding: “I have said things that are not kind or not nice and nor do they reflect the type of person that I have become.”
His apology did not convince all observers of his suitability for the job at Gay Times. Commenting before the announcement of his suspension, Craig Davidson, a student, said Rivers could not lead a drive for more diverse media coverage.
Surely @GayTimesMag must ask @_joshrivers to step down from his position as editor or he should resign. Even if is views have changed as he claims, they are hardly historical. He is not the captain required for a flagship of much needed change and diverse representation. https://t.co/86l61BX4ZR — Craig Davidson (@CraigDavidson85) November 15, 2017
James Harrison said the posts were too recent to be written off with an apology.
While it’s good of you to apologise, you are absolutely not suited to be editor of such an important magazine. These comments weren’t that long ago, and it’s frightening you could hold those views so recently.— James Harrison ???? (@JamesWHarrison) November 15, 2017
A spokesperson for Stonewall said Rivers should be “held to account”, adding: “We have to, as a community, work together to create a world where everyone is accepted without exception.”
Peter Tatchell, the LGBT+ rights campaigner, said it would be difficult for Rivers to persuade people that he had changed.
“Like many people, I had high hopes that the appointment of a mixed-race editor pledged to diversity would herald a step-change for the LGBT+ press,” Tatchell said.
“His history of grossly offensive tweets is such a letdown. It undermines whatever good he was planning to achieve in the magazine.
“He says he has now moved on. I hope so. But it is open to question whether the people he disparaged in such insulting terms will move on with him.”
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