A CONTROVERSIAL columnist issued a grovelling apology over a two-week campaign of racist abuse towards another journalist.

Julie Burchill, 61, has agreed to pay “substantial damages” to Ash Sarkar and issued a statement on her Twitter page about the “defamatory comments”.

The Hove writer, who has worked for The Telegraph and The Spectator, waded in to a row between Ms Sarkar and right-wing columnist Rod Liddle.

In an article in 2012, Mr Liddle wrote that if he were a teacher, he “could not remotely conceive of not trying to shag the kids”.

The article was highlighted by left-wing journalist Ms Sarkar, claiming her disbelief that it had actually been printed by the right-wing magazine.

Ash Sarkar stood up to a Question Time audience member who argued immigrants only come to the UK to take advantage of the NHS

Ash Sarkar stood up to a Question Time audience member who argued immigrants only come to the UK to take advantage of the NHS

In response, Ms Burchill alleged that Ms Sarkar “worshipped the Prophet Muhammad, worshipped a paedophile (referring to the Prophet Muhammad), that she was an Islamist, and that she was a hypocrite”.

Ms Burchill’s book contract was cancelled, and directed her Facebook followers to “wade in on Twitter” against “the Islamists” and “nonces”.

She wrote a crude poem about Sarkar that featured a description of “a gender fluid threesome with Marine Le Pen”. She also “liked” posts saying that Sarkar should kill herself and suggesting that she (Sarkar) was a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM).

But now following a claim for defamation, Ms Burchill issued an apology.

In a statement on Twitter Ms Burchill she wrote: “On 13 December 2020 I made defamatory statements about @AyoCaesar (Ash Sarkar) which I sincerely regret and retract and have undertaken not to repeat.”

Burchill said that her posts had “included racist and misogynist comments” and “played into Islamophobic tropes”.

Writer Julie Burchill photographed at the Sussex Arts Centre in Brighton, UK, 9th February 1999. (Photo by Andrew Hasson/Photoshot/Getty Images).

She wrote: “Although it was not my intention, I accept that my statements were defamatory of Ms Sarkar and caused her very substantial distress.”

Ms Burchill wrote: “I should not have sent these Tweets, some of which included racist and misogynist comments regarding Ms Sarkar’s appearance and her sex life.

“I was also wrong to have ‘liked’ other posts on Facebook and Twitter about her which were offensive, including one which called for her to kill herself, and another which speculated whether she had been a victim of FGM.

“I regret that I did not pay much attention to them at the time. On reflection, I accept that these ‘liked’ posts included callous and degrading comments about Ms Sarkar and I should not have liked them.”

Ms Burchill said she has since seen that Ms Sarkar has been subject to death threats and conspiracy theories.

She wrote: “I deeply regret having reacted in the way I did. I accept that I should have behaved better. On reflection, I accept that I misjudged the situation, and made comments that are simply not true.

“I unreservedly and unconditionally apologise for the hurtful and unacceptable comments I made to and about Ms Sarkar.

Julie Burchill.

Julie Burchill.

It is not the first time Ms Burchill has caused controversy over her views, here in Brighton in 2016 she alleged University of Sussex students were “toffs” and wrote: “They’re the most irritating type of young toff.

“The kind who think they’re carefree hippies, but are even more entitled and unapologetic about their privilege than their parents.

“I call them the Shrieking Violets, as they often have Victorian parlourmaid names: Violet, Lily, Daisy."

She referred to incidents experienced by the family of her disabled friend by students in Brighton and Hove.