Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington has said she was “caught off guard” after refusing to answer questions in relation to a retweet that featured anti-immigration rhetoric.
Speaking to Shane Hannon on Newstalk’s Off the Ball programme on Monday, the boxer was asked if she agreed with the views put forward in a video from UK media outlet GB News which she shared on Twitter last October.
In the original video, Dutch commentator Eva Vlaardingerbroek spoke about the killing of a 12-year-old French girl whose mutilated body was found in a suitcase in Paris, saying she was “sacrificed at the altar of mass migration.”
Harrington retweeted the video with the comment: “Very, very sad. A powerful message from Eva Vlaardingerbroek. Our own leaders need to take a listen to this. She believes this is the 12th girl in France this year who has been killed by an immigrant. And that’s just France.” She subsequently deleted the tweet.
Kellie Harrington discussed her deleted tweet on immigration on #OTBAM. pic.twitter.com/6U4wGrmHD3
— Off The Ball (@offtheball) March 27, 2023
Appearing in the Newstalk interview as a brand ambassador for retailer Spar, Harrington refused to answer questions in relation to her social media activity. “That was a post in October, so I do feel like you are hanging me out to dry,” said Harrington. “You know me by now and you know you’re going to get the truth off me and that’s exactly the truth as it is, as I sit here now.”
She went on to label the interviewer “a dog with a bone” when he persisted with the line of questioning after another voice off camera interjected by also asking Hannon to move on.
She said she was not appearing on the sports radio show to discuss politics before questioning the interviewer’s “agenda”. The interview ended shortly after with Harrington saying “over and out, I’m done”.
On Monday night, Harrington released a statement on social media saying the October tweet “was not reflective of me as a person or my thoughts” and that she had apologised to a number of people shortly after sending the original tweet.
A statement following my interview earlier with OTB pic.twitter.com/FGuO3w7Wwe
— Kellie Harrington (@Kelly64kg) March 27, 2023
“Having realised the significance of my tweet and the hurt caused to a number of people I immediately deleted the tweet,” read the statement. “I engaged privately with a number of people who were hurt by my tweet and apologised to them.
“As a sporting role model, I am aware that I need to be mindful of what I do and say. I reacted with my emotions and without the facts. How this came across is not reflective of me as a person or my thoughts.
“I did an interview today during which I was caught off guard. I was not prepared for a question unrelated to sport and my response to the question asked was not definitive. I do not want to engage in politically sensitive matters.
“What I want to make clear is, throughout my life both in boxing and outside boxing, I have been lucky enough to have had many multicultural influences and this continues to shape me to this day. This is something that shapes me as the person I am today and something I am very grateful for. The people closest to me will attest [to] this.
“Since the interview, I have seen some comments that I feel I should address and make my feelings and thoughts clear. As a sportswoman I am proud to say I am all about community, inclusion and diversity.”