Today FM presenter Matt Cooper has come under fire for his softball interview with controversial activist Peter Tatchell, whose comments on paedophila and sex with children have come under the spotlight again after photos of the campaigner emerged with the Minister for Children and other people of influence in Irish society.
Cooper opened the sympathetic segment on The Last Word by relaying the statement of the Minister who accused those concerned about his association with Tatchell of being ‘far-right’ and motivated by homophobia, before introducing Tatchell as a LGBT campaigner who had previously been a guest on the programme.
The presenter asked Tatchell to outline his views on paedophila, and Tatchell replied that he categorically condemned child sex abuse, and condemned adults having sex with children saying “that is my view now and it has always been my view.”
In 1997, Tatchell wrote a letter to the Guardian newspaper defending a book called ‘Dares To Speak’ which, in Tatchell’s words, “challenges the assumption that all sex involving children and adults is abusive.”
He described the book as “courageous”, and added:
“The positive nature of some child–adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy.”
“While it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful,” Tatchell added.
Matt Cooper directed one careful question to Tatchell about the letter. “How come that people have been able to misrepresent [your view] based on a letter that you wrote to the Guardian newspaper back in 1997?” he asked.
Tatchell responded saying; “That letter was edited, but even so, it still said, and I quote, paedophilia is impossible to condone – that means I don’t condone it and I condemn it.”
No other questions were asked by Cooper about the obvious contradictions in the letter and Tatchell’s claim that adults having sex with nine year olds could give the child ‘great joy’ – fact, just 40 seconds of an 11 minute segment of The Last Word focused on the disturbing letter which had led to decades of controversy. Cooper later confirmed on Twitter that he had read the Guardian piece.
Tatchell has never sued the Guardian for ‘editing’ the letter’. He has also campaigned to lower the age of consent.
The Today FM interview met with an instant backlash response on social media.
The interview was “just teed .. up to downplay controversy and smear people,” wrote Robert Burke.