David Starkey has said he has paid a ‘heavy price’ for his racist remarks about slavery, as he finally issued an apology after a number of organisations ended their links with the historian.
The television presenter claimed slavery was not genocide because there are ‘so many damn blacks’ still around during an online interview with pro-Brexit Darren Grimes for YouTube channel Reasoned UK.
In a lengthy statement, Starkey admitted his ‘bad mistake’ has cost him ‘every distinction and honour acquired in a long career’.
He said his ‘principal regret’ was that his ‘blundering use of language’ could endanger people’s right to freedom of speech.
Speaking about his use of the phrase ‘so many damn blacks’, he said: ‘It was intended to emphasise, in hindsight with awful clumsiness, the numbers who survived the horrors of the slave trade.
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‘Instead, it came across as a term of racial abuse.
‘This, in the present atmosphere, where passions are high and feelings raw, was deplorably inflammatory.
‘It was a bad mistake.
‘I am very sorry for it and I apologise unreservedly for the offence it caused.
‘I have also paid a heavy price for one offensive word with the loss of every distinction and honour acquired in a long career.
‘Moreover, this misunderstanding of my words in no way reflects my views or practice on race.
‘I have lived and worked happily and without conflict in multicultural London for almost 50 years and I spent much of the podcast discussing bi-culturalism as a key to the success of Britain’s multicultural society.’
Addressing the public reaction to his words, he added: ‘Central also to British history is a tradition of free speech.
‘If that tradition is suppressed on questions of race, resentments will fester rather than disappear.
‘My principal regret is that my blundering use of language and the penalty it has incurred will further restrict the opportunities for proper debate.
‘For it is only open debate that will heal the divisions in our society that the Black Lives Matter movement has both exposed and expressed.’
Starkey resigned his honorary fellowship at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, after his comments came to light, while Canterbury Christ Church University terminated his role as visiting professor, saying his words were ‘completely unacceptable’.
Lancaster University has also launched a review of Starkey’s status as an honorary graduate following the comments, which it called ‘abhorrent’.
During the interview on June 30, Starkey said: ‘Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there?
‘An awful lot of them survived and again there’s no point in arguing against globalisation or Western civilisation.
‘They are all products of it, we are all products of it.
‘The honest teaching of the British Empire is to say, quite simply, it is the first key stage of our globalisation.
‘It is probably the most important moment in human history and it is still with us.’
The interview sparked a backlash, including from former chancellor Sajid Javid, who said Starkey’s ‘racist’ comments were a ‘reminder of the appalling views that still exist’.