Graham Norton caused a mild Twitter outburst this week as he discussed the issue of cancellation culture and transgender issues.
In a video of an interview with the TV presenter at the Cheltenham Literature Festival posted online on Wednesday, Norton said it felt absurd that many of those who complained about “cancelled” could then talk about their cancellation in newspapers and in interviews.
“The word is the wrong word,” he said. “I think the word should be responsibility.”
Norton used John Cleese, who has become a staunch champion of the cancellation culture (and plans to make this topic a regular on his newly announced show on the right-wing network GB News), as an example.
“It must be very difficult to be a man of a certain age, who has been allowed to say what he likes for years, and now suddenly there is a certain responsibility. It is freedom of speech, but not without consequences.”
The interviewer, Mariella Frostrop, then brought up the topic of JK Rowling, whose comments and stance on transgender issues have been widely criticized, suggesting there had been “censorship attempts” against the Harry Potter author.
Norton didn’t mention Rowling by name, but said that instead of getting the opinion of celebrities like himself on issues like transgender rights—something that “doesn’t add anything to the discussion”—people instead “should talk to trans people, talk with the parents of trans children, talk to doctors, talk to psychiatrists, to someone who can somehow alleviate this. I’m well aware that, as a television guy, your voice can be artificially amplified, and once in a blue moon, that can be good, but most of the time it’s just a distraction. It’s for clicks.”
Norton added: “If you want to talk about something, talk about the thing, you don’t have to attach a Kardashian or anything to a topic, the topic on its own should be enough.”
Somewhat predictably for any discussion of cancellation culture and trans rights, the comments sparked a lot of online discussion, with JK Rowling himself wading into the argument. When British musician Billy Bragg praised Norton for his comments and “suggested that the media talk directly to trans teens and their parents rather than just amplify a celebrity’s recordings,” Rowling responded, saying she enjoyed the “recent wave of bearded men confidently step onto their soapboxes to define what a woman is and support rape and death threats to those who disagree.”