Robert Webb has addressed his past criticism of transgender charity Mermaids.
Commenting on his support for an article by Janice Turner from 2018 called “Trans ideologists are spreading cod science,” Webb has said in a new interview that Turner’s comments “made sense to me at the time”.
In the article, Turner claimed Mermaids is “so out of step with NHS best practice,” saying that the NHS encourages “watchful waiting” with children while Mermaids opts for an “affirmation” model.
She went on to write that such a model means that “any child who declares that they are trans must be treated as such without examining any possible underlying issues, such as frequently undiagnosed autism, depression or sexual abuse.”
“I can’t even really remember what [Turner’s] specific objections were but they made sense to me at the time, and I retweeted it approvingly,” Webb has now said on the NPR podcast Bullseye with host Jesse Thorn, on which he appeared with David Mitchell.
Webb added: “There was this feeling that if you criticise a charity and the way it operates or its methodology, that is the same as criticising the client base.
“It’s like saying if I’ve got a problem with the way Oxfam is operating, it’s because I hate poor people in the third world.”
David Mitchell and Robert Webb
He continued: “The whole debate is really overheated and it’s impossible to really talk about this or say anything even remotely reasonable without what I say being used as a vehicle for another round of defamation and abuse, so it’s not a topic I tend to dive into anymore, at all really.”
Thorn then asked Webb if he had had a conversation with Mermaids since. “It just wasn’t a conversation I wanted to carry on getting into because the reaction was so strong,” Webb explained. “It was as if I said, ‘I hate trans children,’ which of course, I don’t.
“Do I have to say… OK, maybe I do. That is not how I feel about the situation. It was critical about the way Mermaids was conducting itself.”
When sharing the interview on Twitter, Thorn claimed that Webb’s publicists had requested for the interview section focusing on Mermaids would be cut, which NPR denied.
“They declined to send us their audio after the recording, so this is a recording of our videoconference,” Thorn said. “Their publicity team asked if we would consider dropping the last segment and re-recording, if Webb and Mitchell agreed. This would be against NPR’s ethics code, so we said no.
Their publicity team asked if we would consider dropping the last segment and re-recording, if Webb and Mitchell agreed. This would be against NPR’s ethics code, so we said no.
— Jesse Thorn (@JesseThorn) April 13, 2021
“We did offer to record additional material in a second interview if Webb felt there was something further that had been left unsaid, but they declined.”
NME has contacted Robert Webb’s representatives for comment. This story will be updated accordingly.