In Depth

Kelvin Mackenzie to leave The Sun after 'racist' column

Tabloid's former editor removed after comparing Everton footballer Ross Barkley to a gorilla

Kelvin Mackenzie is to leave The Sun after comparing a mixed-race footballer to a gorilla in a column for the newspaper.

He was suspended from the tabloid last month and is negotiating his exit terms with parent company News UK, reports the Financial Times.

His removal is part of a "clean up" by boss Rupert Murdoch and "marks a watershed moment for The Sun," the paper adds.

Mackenzie was widely criticised for comparing Everton footballer Ross Barkley, who has a Nigerian grandfather, with a gorilla following the player's altercation with a member of the public in a Liverpool nightclub.

He wrote that looking at the player's eyes had given him a "similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo".

The article was accompanied by an image of a gorilla next to a picture of the England midfielder.

Everton banned The Sun's journalists from attending the club's press conferences, calling the allegations "appalling and indefensible", while Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson tweeted that he had reported Mackenzie to the police over the "racist slur".

The tabloid retracted the column and made a formal apology, saying they were unaware of Barkley's heritage.

"The views expressed by Kelvin Mackenzie about the people of Liverpool were wrong, unfunny and are not the view of the paper," it said.

However, Mackenzie said the outcry was "beyond parody".

"I had no idea of Ross Barkley's family background and nor did anybody else. For the mayor of Liverpool and a handful of others to describe the article as racist is beyond parody," he told the Press Association.

According to the FT, Sun journalists said the move to oust Mackenzie was being driven by Rebekah Brooks, who was re-hired by News UK after being cleared of phone-hacking charges in 2015.

"Sources said she was concerned the article had inflamed tensions with Liverpool, where the paper is still reviled for its coverage of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster."

Mackenzie was editor of The Sun when it printed it widely criticised front-page story headlined: "The Truth", which falsely claimed intoxicated Liverpool fans had caused the fatal crush which lead to the deaths of 96 people.

In a tweet today, Anderson said the journalist had been "brought down by his own poison pen".

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