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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 March 2006, 10:00 GMT
'Anti-gay' paper column attacked
Lowri Turner
Lowri Turner presented the BBC show DIY SOS
Television presenter Lowri Turner has been criticised by Welsh Assembly Members over a "homophobic" column she wrote for the Western Mail newspaper.

In a letter to editor Alan Edmunds, AMs said he should justify his decision to publish the column on 27 January.

She wrote that gay men did not make good party leaders as their lifestyles were "too divorced from the norm".

Mr Edmunds said there was no intention to offend and supported her right to express her views.

Ms Turner, who has presented TV shows Looking Good, Housecall, Would Like To Meet and DIY SOS, writes a regular column for the Western Mail.

Columnists are, by their nature, there to write challenging, often controversial things
Alan Edmunds, Western Mail editor

Writing during the Liberal Democrat leadership contest, Ms Turner commented on revelations that MP Mark Oaten used rent boys, and on his colleague Simon Hughes' announcement he had had gay relationships.

Under the headline "However much I love my gay friends, I don't want them running the country', she said: "Frankly I don't trust a man who says he swings both ways, unless he is a spotty teenager who hasn't sorted himself out yet.

"Oaten is 41 and Hughes is 54. If they think they are old enough to run the country then surely they are old enough to work out which gender they fancy?

"Those who claim to be bisexual are simply trying to fudge the truth."

Later in the column, Ms Turner said gay men did not make good party leaders because they did not face the same challenges as those who had children, adding: "I have gay friends whose biggest headache is whether to have a black sofa or a cream one."

Lowri Turner's Western Mail column
The Mail says the assembly shouldn't hold editors to account

The column prompted a letter to Mr Edmunds from Gwenda Thomas, chair of the assembly's equality committee.

Mrs Thomas said the freedom of the press to publish personal views carried a "responsibility" which had been "clearly overstepped".

She added: "Homophobia, together with all other forms of prejudice, is unacceptable in any modern, democratic, civilised society, and it is therefore disappointing to say the least that an article that promotes such attitudes appeared in a newspaper that purports to be 'the national newspaper for Wales'."

'Held to account'

The letter said the committee was "disappointed" Mr Edmunds had not accepted an invitation to attend a meeting to discuss his decision to publish the column.

It went on: "If a newspaper through its columnist is willing to express a controversial opinion, its editor should surely be willing and available to be held to account for it."

In a statement, Mr Edmunds defended the publication of the column.

He said: "The view which caused concern was expressed not by the paper but by our columnist, Lowri Turner.

"Columnists are, by their nature, there to write challenging, often controversial things and, while their views are not necessarily the views of the paper or its editor, I stand by their right to express them.

"There was no intention to offend.

"We publish views and opinions every day with which some people will disagree.

"This is a democracy and it is not the role of the National Assembly to hold editors to account for the content of their newspapers.

"In my view that would be a dangerous and unhealthy precedent for Wales."

Mr Edmunds added that the paper had printed extensive reaction to the column over a week.

Ms Turner said she did not wish to comment.

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