Boris Johnson left journalism for politics because he felt guilty for “mistreating or attacking people” without putting himself in their shoes, he told a group of schoolchildren on Tuesday.
“I was like a journalist for a long time, I still really am, I still write stuff,” he told students at Sedgehill Academy in south-east London. “But when you’re a journalist it’s a great job, it’s a great job, but the problem is you sometimes find yourself abusing or attacking people.”
He continued, “Not that you want to abuse or attack them, but you are critical… maybe sometimes you feel a little guilty because you didn’t put yourself in the shoes of the person you are criticizing, and so I thought I would try.
The Prime Minister’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, said Johnson was referring to journalists’ work of holding the government to account, saying: “It’s the Prime Minister talking about you … as a journalists, your job is to constantly challenge and that’s something that makes us all better in government. “
But others may reflect on Johnson’s writings in derogatory terms about groups other than politicians without necessarily “putting themselves in the shoes of the person you criticize.”
In a 2018 Daily Telegraph column, he wrote that women who wore burkas chose to “look like mailboxes” or “bank robbers.” In a 2002 column published in the same journal, he described black people as “piccaninnies” and referred to “watermelon smiles”, language for which he later apologized but claimed to have been taken out of his mind. context. In a 1998 column, again for The Telegraph, he used the phrase “tank top bumboys” to describe gay men.
By the time he finally left the column when he became Foreign Secretary, Johnson was being paid £ 275,000 per year, around £ 4.80 per word.
In addition to being a columnist for the Daily Telegraph, he was a Brussels reporter for the same newspaper and editor of the Spectator. As a journalist, he had a reputation for publishing exaggerated, albeit colorful, stories and was fired from his first job at The Times after making up a quote and attributing it to his godfather.
Since his change of profession, the Prime Minister has sometimes taken umbrage at the negative press. Columnist and former editor of the newspaper Sir Max Hastings wrote in 2019: ‘I have handwritten notes from our possible next prime minister, threatening dire consequences in writing if I continue to criticize him.