Sorry for My Gay Slur on Economist Keynes, Says TV Historian; Niall Ferguson Branded a Bigot over 'Stupid' Attack

Daily Mail (London), May 6, 2013 | Go to article overview

Sorry for My Gay Slur on Economist Keynes, Says TV Historian; Niall Ferguson Branded a Bigot over 'Stupid' Attack


Byline: From Tom Leonard in New York

HISTORIAN Niall Ferguson has been labelled a homophobic 'pub bigot' for suggesting that the economist John Maynard Keynes did not care about future generations because he was gay and childless.

Professor Ferguson quickly issued an abject apology, insisting that his 'stupid and insensitive' remarks at a conference had been 'off the cuff'.

But he failed to mollify critics, with one claiming yesterday that the Glasgow-born Harvard academic had made similar remarks about Keynes's sexuality before.

Professor Ferguson, 49, an advocate of austerity policies, had tried to use Keynes's famous observation that 'in the long run, we are all dead' against him in a sideswipe at the British economist's 'selfish' support for high government spending.

He was apparently responding to a question about the contrast between the economic philosophy of selfinterest of Keynes, who died in 1946, and that of Edmund Burke in the 18th century who believed there was a social contract among the living, the dead and those yet to be born.

According to a report of his address to financial advisers and investors in California on Thursday, during a post-speech question and answer session Ferguson asked his audience how many children Keynes had.

He then explained that Keynes married a ballerina but had a string of gay affairs. Keynes was an 'effete' member of society who would rather talk of poetry than procreate, Professor Ferguson reportedly added.

Commentators rounded on the historian, who has four children from two marriages, for implying that gays or people with no children do not care about future generations. Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said he was glad the professor had apologised for his 'homophobic slur' against Keynes. But he added: 'His remarks are what we might expect from a pub bigot, not from a Harvard history professor.'

Tom Kostigen, a financial writer who was in the audience, said: 'Apparently, in Ferguson's world, if you are gay or childless you cannot care about future generations nor society.'

Professor Ferguson said: 'I made comments about John Maynard Keynes that were as stupid as they were insensitive. …

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