Record Number of Complaints Flood in Over Norwegian Radio Host’s Antisemitic Tirade Against COVID-19 Vaccine in Israel
Norway’s Broadcasting Council has received a record number of complaints in the wake of a radio program host’s antisemitic tirade on Tuesday morning on the state-owned NRK network.
“So far we have received 310 complaints, they have been flooding in,” Erik Skarrud — the secretary of the Broadcasting Council — told the NTB news agency on Wednesday evening.
Listeners tuning in to the morning show anchored by Shaun Erik Matheson were stunned to hear the host opining that the success of the Covid-19 vaccine in Israel — in his words, a “sh**ty country” ruled by “God’s chosen people” — made him “almost wish” that it had failed.
“So apparently, numbers from Israel show that among more than 1 million fully vaccinated persons, less than 1,000 were infected,” Matheson railed before a live audience. “No matter how you twist and turn it, this is good news. Only I wish it was from another country, if you get what I mean. It’s almost as though I wish the vaccine didn’t work. You cannot say that. I’m sorry, I do understand that. Damn it.”
Earlier in the day on Wednesday, Skarrud had already commented that the Broadcasting Council was receiving an unusually large number of complaints against Matheson.
“Over 200 complaints in 24 hours is very rare,” Skarrud told broadcaster Medier24, when the number of complaints stood at 229. “That happens only once or twice a year.”
Skarrud said that the Broadcasting Council would discuss the complaints at its weekly meeting.
Matheson’s initial reaction to the complaints was to insist that his remarks about Israel were intended as a joke. NRK later issued a public apology for the on-air rant.
Matheson had “crossed the line,” NRK’s entertainment editor, Charlo Halvorsen, said. “We have to apologize for this, and I can understand why people are angry.”
Matheson was also the subject of mild criticism from other Norwegian media figures with similarly uncompromising pro-Palestinian views.
In a column for the popular online newspaper Nettavissen, opinion writer Erik Stephansen defended Matheson’s widely-disputed depiction of Israel as an illegal occupier and apartheid regime.
But expressing the wish that the vaccine had failed in the case of Israel was “nothing other than cruelty to a vulnerable group of people,” Stephansen wrote.
“This is something completely different than disagreeing with the policy pursued by the state of Israel. This sounds like a wish that people living in Israel should die. If you take it further, it can be interpreted as a wish that they should die because they are Jews,” Stephansen argued.