Boulton accused of sexism over 'simpering woman on the left' slur

Jan 18, 2012
Tim Edwards

Frustration at Leveson lawyer's interrogation of Guardian editor lands Sky man in trouble

ADAM BOULTON has become the latest middle-aged male Sky TV presenter to be accused of sexism after he suggested that a female lawyer was "simpering" at Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger during her questions to him at the Leveson inquiry.
Carine Patry Hoskins is junior counsel to the inquiry, which was called to scrutinise ethics in the media, including - ironically in this context - its treatment of women. The Cambridge-educated lawyer had been questioning Rusbridger quite competently for 20 minutes when Boulton took to Twitter to give his damning verdict:
"The incompetence of Leveson beggars belief. Why on earth has #womanontheleft been called in to simper at Alan Rusbridger?"
'Woman on the left' is the slightly sexist 'hashtag' invented in November when Patry Hoskins was first noticed by Twitter wags who believed she fancied the actor Hugh Grant when he appeared before Leveson as a witness.
In fairness to Boulton, it is likely he just wanted to see Rusbridger interrogated more harshly. The Guardian and Rupert Murdoch's Sky News have history, of course, since it was the left-leaning newspaper that made all the running in investigating the phone hacking scandal which led to the closure of the News of the World.
However, Boulton was immediately accused of indulging in a "sexist rant" by fellow Twitter users. New Statesman blogger Helen Lewis tweeted: "Adam Boulton neatly illustrating my belief that the #womanontheleft hashtag was used by some to belittle Patry Hoskins's abilities..."
Another user made the link between Boulton and his former colleagues at Sky Sports, Richard Keys and Andy Gray, who were forced to resign last year after making sexist remarks about a female football linesman, saying that Patry Hoskins "probably has no understanding of the off-side rule either".
Boulton, far from appearing apologetic, managed to dig himself even further into the sexist mire by comparing Patry Hoskins - who is bilingual and has practised law both in New York and at the European Court of Human Rights - unfavourably with the fictional, male lawyer Perry Mason.
The Sky broadcaster later managed to construct a passable defence, writing on Twitter that "simper is not a gender specific verb" and that "the Rusbridger session was poor" - although he once more appeared to cast aspersions on Patry Hoskins's qualifications by observing that it was "strange and unbalanced" that the lead counsel, Robert Jay QC, was not the one to question Alan Rusbridger.

It was left to Jane Martinson, women's editor at The Guardian, to dismantle Boulton's defence. Tackling the question of whether 'simper' is gender specific, she asked: "Can anyone remember the last time a man was accused of 'simpering"?'

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