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Owen Jones walks off Sky News after Orlando coverage review

The author and journalist said the hosts were trying to ‘deflect’ away from the obvious homophobic reasoning behind the attack

Owen Jones walked off of Sky News on Sunday evening, after the host and another guest began to “deflect” the homophobic undertones of the shooting in Orlando, Florida.

The author and journalist was discussing the attack on LGBT nightclub, Pulse, at the weekend, which left 50 people dead and 54 injured at the hands of a gunman.

Jones said: “At the end of the day, this was a homophobic hate crime, as well as terrorism and it has to be called out, as I have to say, on Sky News and lots of news channels, there’s not been many LGBT voices that I’ve heard myself."

“It’s one of the worst atrocities committed against LGBT people in the western world for generations and it has to be called out as such,” he continued. The attack is reportedly the largest mass killing of LGB people since the Holocaust.

Sky’s host Mark Longhurst and guest Julia Hartley-Brewer likened the attack to the terrorist assault on Paris and the dozens who died in the Bataclan. Longhurst asserted that the Orlando attack was targeted at “human beings” who were “trying to enjoy themselves, whatever their sexuality". 

Jones repeatedly asked why the two were trying to “deflect”, aligning the shooter, named as Omar Mateen, with hatred for western values rather than hatred for gay people.

Longhurst replied: “Whether I’m gay or not has no reflection on the fact that this person killed 50 people”. When discussing the Daily Telegraph’s headline ‘Isil wages war on gays in the West’, Longhurst asked Jones: “You share that view that basically this was deliberately targeted on one part of the community rather than the freedom to enjoy yourself no matter what your sexual orientation is?”

After some back and forth, the obviously frustrated Jones hit back: “This was a deliberate attack on LGBT people in an LGBT venue. It was a homophobic terrorist attack. Do you not understand that? It’s not an abstract, he just picked a random club out of nowhere. He picked a club because it was full of people that he regarded as deviants.”

Julia Hartley-Brewer waded in to say the attacker would probably feel the same way towards her as a “gobby woman”. 

When they began to discuss comments made by a spokesperson from Stonewall, Jones was quick to point out the irony of finally centring on an LGBT voice. Then, after more back and forth, he said: “I’ve had enough of this, I’m going home. Sorry.”

Since his walk out, there has been an outpouring of support for Jones from the likes of the Labour party and other political commentators. Jones has responded on Twitter to thank those for their support, but urged that it “isn’t about me”.

Jones also asked that anyone in London attend a vigil tonight in Soho, to commemorate the lives lost in Orlando.