BBC's Graham Norton 'Furious' Over Irish Broadcaster's Payout to Anti-Gay Marriage Group

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Graham Norton

The Irish-born, openly gay talk show star described the broadcaster's decision to pay a Catholic lobbying group a $116,000 settlement "absolutely moronic."

LONDON – Irish-born, openly gay BBC presenter Graham Norton, is "furious" about Irish broadcaster RTE's decision to pay opponents of gay marriage an $116,000 (€85,000) settlement, branding the decision "absolutely moronic."

Norton, who presents the BBC's flagship Friday night late talk show, which recently featured Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Hugh Bonneville among the guests, told Irish magazine Hot Press of his anger.

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It came after Catholic lobby group the Iona Institute and two prominent Irish journalists threatened legal action after being described as homophobic on an episode of RTE's Saturday Night Show.

Norton said gay marriage opponents were "out of touch" with new Ireland in the interview with Hot Press.

"I'm not registered to vote in Ireland, but I do pay the license fee there," said Norton, adding that he was "furious that some of my money has gone to these idiots."

Norton's comments also were highlighted on the BBC news website, the public broadcaster for which Norton makes The Graham Norton Show and also presents a regular Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 2.

"RTE settling wasn't gutless; It was absolutely moronic," Norton said.

Irish female impersonator Panti Bliss had singled out four members of right-wing group the Iona Institute and two Irish newspaper columnists during a program on the flagship Irish public broadcaster channel last month, saying they were "horrible and mean about gays."

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Iona officials and journalists John Waters and Breda O'Brien, who are all vocally opposed to gay marriage, claimed they had been defamed and threatened to sue the broadcaster.

RTE has defended its decision to settle out of court.

Norton expressed his disappointed that the journalists had decided to threaten legal action instead of examining why they might be accused of homophobia.

"I want to ask these people, 'Why are you so scared and intimidated by the idea of gay marriage?'," Norton said, while noting he himself has no desire to get married.

Norton said attitudes had changed a lot since he was growing up gay in west Cork, and spending his summers there in recent years, he had found it was "such a different place."

"It takes pride in accepting all types of people. There's more than 40 shades of green," said Norton.

He added: "This tiny minority can yell all they want, but it's over. It's all done. The Iona Institute, and people like that, are like rats trapped in the corner of a barn. They know the jig is up. That's why they're screaming so loud."

Norton also said in the interview he was glad there were gay marriage opponents as "they drag everyone towards the center."

Norton tweeted yesterday after reports of his comments appeared in the Irish press.

"Various Irish papers quoting me as saying RTE payout was gutless. I actually said the opposite. Not gutless. It was moronic."