Saturday, 3 June 2017

Katie Hopkins: The Final Straw?

by Thomas Locke

On Friday 26th May, LBC announced that their controversial guest presenter Katie Hopkins would be leaving the station. The moves comes after Hopkins tweeted about the Manchester Arena terrorist attack saying that we required a ‘final solution’. After less than a year at the station and many controversial comments, is this the final straw for the inflammatory media personality?

Many of Katie’s Twitter followers questioned Katie’s usage of the phrase “final solution” as it was a term originally used by the Nazi’s to refer to the Holocaust and ethnic cleansing. Katie subsequently changed the phrase used in the tweet from “final solution” to “true solution”, claiming that her earlier version was a “mistype”. Some of her followers referred the comments to the Metropolitan Police, claiming that they could be perceived as racist and xenophobic. The Metropolitan Police later confirmed that the case was "reviewed and assessed by specialist officers".

After Katie made the comments on the Manchester Arena bomb attack, fellow LBC presenter James O’Brien said on his show that he felt the “shame” about sharing a platform with her, saying that Hopkins is:

"a monstrous self-publicist" who "employs the most vile of thoughts and language in a desperate attempt to stay relevant and get noticed".
According to Amol Rajan, the BBC News Media Editor, there were ‘massive cheers and an applause’ in the LBC newsroom when staff received an email about Katie’s departure.

Hopkins first came into the spotlight in 2007, starring as one of the candidates in the BBC series The Apprentice. She rejected Lord Sugar’s offer of a place in the final episode of the programme, withdrawing from the competition before the penultimate task. Throughout her time on The Apprentice, she made numerous comments on camera, mainly regarding other contestants, however other people fell into the Hopkins firing line included those who watch television shopping channels, those who are overweight and those who use fake tanning products. When these comments were shown on the programme The Apprentice: You’re Fired!, Katie defended them, stating that they were “quite funny”. After the programme had ended, Hopkins appeared on numerous television programmes and sold her story to two news outlets: “News of the World” and “EMAP” the organisation behind the publications Grazia and Heat.

She originally began writing a column in the Express & Echo, however, she was dismissed after an online poll ran by the media group stated that 84% of their viewers disliked her content. In October of 2003, it had emerged that Katie joined The Sun newspaper as a weekly columnist, being promoted as “Britain's most controversial columnist". However, In autumn of 2015, Hopkins left The Sun to join MailOnline, the online companion to the DMG media group newspaper Daily Mail. From April of 2016, Katie presented a Sunday talk show on LBC, a Leicester Square based talk station, operated by Global, the same media company behind radio stations Capital, Heart, Classic FM and Radio X, which gave comedian Russell Brand a show earlier this year.

LBC provides a radio platform to many broadcasters, including Nick Ferrari, who recently interviewed Diane Abbott about Labour’s plans for funding the Police force in the UK. Their interview hit the headlines, being described as a “car-crash” as at one point, Abbott claimed that the policy would cost £300,000 - the equivalent of £30 per police officer. Ms Abbott said: "Well, erm... if we recruit the 10,000 policemen and women over a four-year period, we believe it will be about £300,000." Nick queried the amount: "£300,000 for 10,000 police officers? What are you paying them?"

Katie joined the series “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!” in 2007 after a contestant pulled out from the ITV reality TV show before it began. It was not until 2013, that Katie had established herself as a controversial figure after a debate on This Morning about children’s names. In 2015, in a programme for TLC, Katie deliberately gained and lost weight in order to prove that “fat people are lazy” and that obese people can diet successfully. TLC confirmed that the two-part documentary received over 10 million views in both the United Kingdom and the US. In January of 2015, she appeared on Celebrity Big Brother and finished second. Later that year, she was given her own talk show by TLC, titled “If Katie Hopkins Ruled The World” which was used as a platform for Katie to share her views to a wider audience. It was later confirmed in December of 2015 that her show would not continue due to low viewer ratings.

Since her appearance on The Apprentice, Katie has been featured in the media for her controversial remarks, often being described by some media outlets as a “professional troll”. However, she has also continued to stand by what she has said, describing herself as a "conduit for truth", telling BBC Radio 5 Live that she “iterates the stuff you can’t say anymore”.

However, some of her comments have led to legal issues, notably a dispute between Katie and cookery writer Jack Monroe, which lead to Monroe being awarded £24,000 in damages and £107,000 in legal costs in March of 2017. Monroe threatened libel action against Hopkins after she had accused her of vandalising a war memorial, demanding that Hopkins apologised and paid £5,000 as a donation to a migrant rescue charity.

Back in December 2016, Katie mentioned in two columns for the MailOnline which claimed that members of a Muslim family were extremists and connected to al-Qaida. The articles made false claims that police were right to stop the Mahmood family from going to Disneyland because the two men had connected to the Islamic extremist group.  Their family’s MP Stella Creasy complained to the Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron about the family’s treatment, only for Katie to say that she was "whining" and accused her of being a "maniac".

Is this the final straw for Katie? When does it end? Since her rise to national fame in 2013, her spotlight could soon be dimming as she tests the boundaries and as her platforms are being taken away from her. In an Church and Media conference, she stated that she is "pushing back the walls closing in on freedom of speech” and has since regularly referred herself as the “Jesus of the outspoken”. Despite the news of her departure from LBC, Katie has not directly referenced it on Twitter and has refused to comment, although has removed all current LBC branding from her Twitter header. 

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