The Presidents Club: what the papers said

From The Sun saying the charities should not return the money to a Guardian columnist wondering why captains of industry feel the need to give in this way, the media has been pontificating

Many of the national newspapers carried coverage of the Presidents Club scandal on their front pages today. Here’s a selection of some of the opinion pieces they published on the subject.

The Sun used its leader column to criticise Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity for saying that it would return £530,000 donated by the Presidents Club over the years.

The paper said that although it deplored the behaviour that reportedly took place at the event, the charity had "lost its mind" by deciding to return funds, declaring the move a hollow gesture.

"It would not remotely damage its image to spend that on sick children," the paper said.

"How will the public now view Great Ormond Street’s cash appeals, knowing that it sent back half a million pounds because it no longer liked the source? How can the hospital possibly afford it?

"If it can’t, there will be real outrage if kids’ treatment has to be compromised because it panicked over a media storm."

In its leader column, The Times said the charity’s closure was the only option after the revelations about its fundraising event. "No other course of action would have been acceptable for an organisation that made elaborate plans for an event at which the sexual harassment of young women chosen for their looks appears to have been not merely tolerated but expected," it said.

"Many who attended will be indignant, at least in private, at the rapid collapse of an institution that raised many millions for good causes over more than three decades.

"The real cause of indignation is that so many apparently sophisticated men do not seem to have understood that no good cause justifies sexually aggressive or intimidating behaviour. It demeans the aggressor as much as it demeans and appals the victim."

It concludes: "There have been suggestions that Great Ormond Street Hospital keep its donation so as not to penalise its patients. A better idea would be for the City to organise another dinner hosted and attended by men and women and which raised twice as much."

The Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore questioned why captains of industry needed to be seen to giving publicly to charity.

"It’s as if a deal has been struck that says: ‘We will show you pictures of children in intensive care, but don’t worry! To compensate, we will provide you a petting zoo of pretty young women.’"

She added: "Nothing is going to stop wealthy ferals behaving badly, but let it not be done in the name of charity. Let it not be done by public representatives or chief executives who boast of getting more women in the boardroom.

"And if you want a good cause, here’s one: equality for women."

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, the columnist Polly Vernon wrote that the most shocking thing about the groping allegations at the charity event was that people were surprised by it.

"Did we think we were over this kind of thing?" she wrote. "That we had moved on, to better, braver, lechery-free times, during which an explicitly ‘all-male’ dinner will unfurl in a moderate, mild-mannered, testosterone-lite fashion?

"Or was it perhaps that it happened in the name of children’s charity? That its righteous end goal contrasted so starkly with its raucous, rabid reality?"

The Daily Mirror used its leader column to bid "goodbye and good riddance to the sleazy Presidents Club charity, exploited by high-rollers as an excuse to grope and sexually abuse young women". It said serious questions remained for the organisers of the event.

"Every day, in every part of our country, decent people raise money and attend events to help good causes without being dirty old men who mistakenly believe that are entitled to do what they like to who they like."

Writing in the Financial Times, the paper whose undercover exposé began the media storm surrounding the charity, Patrick Jenkins said it was particularly distasteful that the Presidents Club mixed the "dreadful behaviour it facilitated with securing sponsorship from big name brands such as WPP, raising large amounts of money for worthy children’s charities, and fostering links with the establishment.

He said: "The organisers can rightly point to a proud record of generous charitable donations, but it is perfectly possible in this day and age to raise the money in such a way that does not degrade or exclude women."

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