Guardian editor apologises to BBC chairman Richard Sharp over ‘antisemitic’ cartoon

Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner (Getty Images)
Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner (Getty Images)

The Guardian ‘s editor-in-chief has apologised directly to BBC chair Richard Sharp after a cartoon of him published by the newspaper sparked allegations of antisemitism.

The cartoon about Mr Sharp’s resignation appeared in the Guardian on Saturday, but prompted backlash as it showed the Jewish former banker with exaggeratedly large facial features and “anti-Semitic tropes”.

Cartoonist Martin Rowson issued an apology, as did the newspaper which also removed the cartoon from its website.

Guardian editor Katharine Viner has now written personally to Mr Sharp to offer a direct apology, according to London-based news organisation The Jewish Chronicle.

The Guardian has also agreed to meet the country’s largest Jewish community group, The Board of Deputies of British Jews, following the row.

The controversial cartoon showed Mr Sharp with a large nose, carrying a box marked ‘Goldman Sachs’ with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak inside and with a pig’s head and an octopus also included.

It was withdrawn after complaints and Mr Rowson issued a lengthy apology explaining the reference to Goldman Sachs was because Mr Sunak worked there with Mr Sharp and was intended as a criticism of “cronyism”.

Mr Rowson said he knew Mr Sharp was Jewish, because they went to school together, but added that his religion “never crossed my mind as I drew him”.

He said he had not considered portraying the Prime Minister as a puppet of Mr Sharp was anti-Semitic, adding: “I apologise, though I’m not going to repeat the current formulation by saying I’m sorry if people were upset, which is always code for ‘I’ve done nothing wrong, you’re just oversensitive’. This is on me, even if accidentally or, more precisely, thoughtlessly”.

Mr Sharp resigned from the BBC on Friday after being found to have broken rules on public appointments by failing to declare his involvement in an £800,000 loan guarantee for Boris Johnson when he was prime minister. His resignation will take effect in June.

Campaign group the National Jewish Assembly has called for both Ms Viner and Mr Rowson to be dismissed.

The Guardian said it apologises “to Mr Sharp, to the Jewish community and to anyone offended”.

A Guardian spokesperson said: "Katharine Viner has agreed to meet the Board of Deputies of British Jews and to discuss the issues raised, in the near future."