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Canadian Jewish TV host apologizes for anti-Roma rant

TORONTO (JTA) — A Jewish television host in Canada apologized for a rant against the Roma people during a segment titled "The Jews versus the gypsies."

Ezra Levant of the Sun TV network referred on Monday to the segment last September as "a pretty good rant" but added, "To those I hurt, I’m sorry. … It’s just wrong to slur a group of people. I made the moral mistake of judging people collectively."

He had sparked widespread outrage when he referred to Roma as "gypsies" and "a culture synonymous with swindlers … one of the central characteristics of that culture is that their chief economy is theft and begging."

He also said, "The phrase ‘gypsy’ and ‘cheater’ have been so interchangeable historically that the word has been entered into the English language as a verb: he gypped me. Well, the gypsies have gypped us. Too many have come here as false refugees," Levant said on the segment.

The attack came amid news reports about a crime ring of Romanian immigrants working in the Toronto area.

Canada’s Roma community asked Toronto police last fall to investigate Levant for hate crimes.

Levant, who is known for his blustery talk and fervent belief in free speech, said on Monday, "I don’t apologize simply for the sake of being consistent in my views. I regret having made these statements and I’m hopeful that those remarks will serve as an example of what not to do when commenting on social issues."

Sun News apologized for the segment last fall and pulled the offending video from its website.

Writing in the National Post newspaper in the wake of the broadcast, three prominent Jewish community leaders said, "If the Sun News Network had aired an attack on Jews, the whole country would be outraged."

Some have said that Levant’s apology is suspiciously timed, as the Sun network is in the midst of asking Canadian broadcasting regulators for inclusion on digital basic cable for five years.

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