The sacked editor of the UK’s Gay Times magazine has apologised and says he is “appalled” by a series of abusive and offensive tweets from his past, which caused his downfall.
The appointment of Josh Rivers, 31, was welcomed as he was the publication’s first non-white editor. He lasted a month in the post – before his social media posts from several years ago caught up with him.
When the tweets came to light Rivers was first suspended – and then sacked on Thursday. The magazine’s action was praised by many followers who welcomed the decisive action taken in sacking the former editor.
However, questions have been raised about Gay Times’ judgement and failure to scrutinise their new appointee’s background.
The messages were exposed by BuzzFeed News which carried an interview with the new editor. “We have a responsibility to show all types of different people, all different shapes, colours, and creeds, that they are valuable, that they are beautiful, and they are loved,” the website quoted Rivers as saying.
It was then that Buzzfeed began reading back to Josh Rivers the tweets he had posted – mostly dating from late 2010 and early 2011, but it’s understood they continued until 2015 – which appeared to call into question his sincerity, given that they appeared to be racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic.
In them he trashed gays, lesbians, transgender people, Jews – he described them as “gross” – overweight people, disabled children, Asians and Chinese people. He attacked women as “whiny”, describing one as a “chav” whose children were “incested”, another he implied was fat he said should be “killed”. Homeless people, he said, should be kept “on the streets and off our buses”.
Rivers expressed his remorse in a long interview with BBC Radio 4’s PM programme on Thursday.
“I was lost, I was angry. I was upset, I was lonely. And I think those tweets are a reflection of someone lashing out at the world around him. They were cries for help,” he said.
Later in the interview he expanded on his thoughts as the consequences of what he had done began to sink in. Choking back tears, he said: “There are people who already feel vulnerable, who feel unloved, who feel unwanted, who feel fat, who feel other, who are going to read these things, and everything I’ve done over the past three years has been to say ‘you are loved, you are valuable, you have a place here’. I had to learn that for myself… I had to face head on my own unhappiness so that I could tell that to other people. I had to lead by example.”
Gay Times said on Twitter that it had removed all articles written by Josh Rivers from its website.
“We sincerely apologise for the offence that has been caused, particularly to those members of our wider community to whom such inappropriate and unacceptable commentary was the focus,” the magazine said.
Josh Rivers said he had been seeing a therapist since 2014, and had no idea what he was going to do next following his sacking.