- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 15, 2005

LONDON — The mayor of London has infuriated Jewish leaders and Holocaust survivors in Britain by accusing a Jewish reporter of acting like a Nazi concentration camp guard, and then refusing to apologize for the anti-Semitic jibes.

The flap could not have come at a worse time, as International Olympic Committee representatives from around the globe arrived in London yesterday to tour the city and make a judgment on whether London is fit to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The defiant mayor, Ken Livingstone, sometimes known as “Red Ken” for his socialist politics, rejected growing demands that he retract the accusations he leveled at reporter Oliver Finegold, insisting his comments were not racist and that he had no intention of withdrawing them.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews immediately lodged a formal complaint with the Standards Board of England, a local government watchdog that has the power to ban Mr. Livingstone from holding public office for five years if he is found guilty of misconduct.

With competition for the world’s most important international sports spectacular at a critical stage, fears grew here that Mr. Livingstone’s jibes at the reporter could do London’s bid irreparable harm and tilt the odds in favor of one of the four rival candidate cities ” New York, Paris, Moscow and or Madrid. The winning city is to be announced on July 6. At the moment, Paris is considered the favorite.

A crucial meeting between the 13 Olympics inspectors and British government officials is scheduled for Friday at Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Downing Street office, and among those expected to meet and greet them is Mr. Livingstone.

The furor began at a party in honor of one of Mr. Blair’s Labor members of Parliament who was celebrating 20 years of “coming out” as a homosexual.

Mr. Finegold, a reporter for the London Evening Standard, asked the mayor how the festivities were going.

“What did you do before?” asked Mr. Livingstone. “Were you a German war criminal?” To which the reporter replied, “No, I’m Jewish, I wasn’t a German war criminal and I’m, actually quite offended by that. So how did tonight go?”

“All right, well, you might be [Jewish],” the mayor said, “but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard. You are doing it just because you are paid to, aren’t you?” Mr. Livingstone said.

Mr. Livingstone, an outspoken left-wing politician who claims he has been the victim of a hate campaign at the hands of the Evening Standard for the past 25 years, then told Mr. Finegold that “your paper is a load of scumbags and reactionary bigots.” The Board of Deputies of British Jews, whose members also represent victims of the Holocaust, immediately demanded an investigation, and the Greater London Assembly, the 25-member elected body that helps the mayor govern the capital, voted unanimously to demand that Mr. Livingstone withdraw his remarks.

But the mayor, at a press conference yesterday, flatly refused to apologize for his remarks.

“You may think that my remarks to that reporter ” and many over the years are offensive,” he said. “That is purely a matter of judgment. … If you think [my comments] are racist, I think you are wrong. … It would be very easy for me to buy off media pressure by lying, but I am not going to do it.”

Mr. Livingstone dismissed any suggestion that the uproar could harm London’s Olympics bid, and suggested that his actions in standing up for his beliefs might even impress the visiting inspectors.

“I think it is important that the IOC members realize that when we get the Games, inevitably there will be some in the media that are going to go for them, and that they have a mayor who is not going to panic, change course or get in a great flap,” he said.

Instead, he said, what the inspectors will find is that they will have a London mayor who “will deliver the Games on time and to budget.”

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