Outspoken academic Professor Richard Dawkins has claimed Tim Hunt was the victim of “a feeding frenzy of mob-rule self-righteousness” when he quit his job in the wake of controversial comments he made about women working in laboratories.
Prof. Dawkins said the reaction to the 72-year-old Nobel laureate’s comments had been “disproportionate” and gone through schadenfreude into “cruelty”, in a letter to the Times.
Mr Hunt provoked a backlash on social media after he reportedly said the “trouble with girls” in laboratories was that “you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry”.
He subsequently apologised for the comments – made at a conference in South Korea – saying they had been intended to be jocular and ironic, but said that he was told that if he did not resign his position at University College London he would be sacked.
In his letter to the Times in England, Prof. Dawkins said: “Along with many others, I didn’t like Sir Tim Hunt’s joke, but ’disproportionate’ would be a huge underestimate of the baying witch-hunt that it unleashed among our academic thought police: nothing less than a feeding frenzy of mob-rule self-righteousness.”
Others to come to Sir Tim’s defence have included London mayor Boris Johnson, who called for his reinstatement, and television physicist Professor Brian Cox, who said the remarks had been “very ill-advised” but that the response – which also saw him give up a position at the Royal Society – had been “disproportionate”.