FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has vehemently denied accusations of sexism, claiming he has been the target of an “inhuman” smear campaign.
Ben Sulayem found himself at the centre of a sexism storm earlier this year after being quoted on an archived version of his old website saying he does “not like women who think they are smarter than men, for they are not in truth”.
Addressing the claims of misogyny for the first time publicly, Ben Sulayem has launched an extraordinary and passionate denial in an interview with PA Sport.
“What did I say, if I said it? Let’s assume it was [me]. I tell you exactly what it said. It says: ‘I hate when women think they are smarter than us’. But they hate when men think they are smarter than them,” Ben Sulayem said.
“Did I say we are smarter? No. Did I say they are less smarter? No. For God’s sake, if that is the only thing they have against me, please be my guest, you can do worse than that.
“People can go back and see what has been said, and if I have said anything against women. In 117 years of the FIA, I am the only president who brought in a female CEO [Natalie Robyn]. I made the commission for EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion), and I brought a woman in [adviser, Tanya Kutsenko].
“There is disrespect to women if you say we have to have 30% [female staff]. You bring them in on merit and credibility. And that is why they are there. Look at Bernie Ecclestone’s wife, [Fabiana Ecclestone, vice president for sport in South America]. She is one of the most active. They said that I brought her in because of the support from Bernie. But Bernie doesn’t have any connection with any votes. He has no power over them.”
The 62-year-old Emirati faced further accusations after the Daily Telegraph reported that the FIA’s former interim secretary general for motorsport, Shaila-Ann Rao, wrote a letter to F1’s governing body accusing Ben Sulayem of sexist behaviour.
“When we opened a position as CEO, Shaila-Ann wanted to be the CEO. I could not get involved. I said, ‘Shaila, you are good, go through with the process’. We had 150 applications, and everybody went through that process,” he said.
“I don’t want to do any comment. But that is from September (referring to a WhatsApp message he claimed to be from Rao thanking him for hosting her at the Italian Grand Prix). Sexism, please! Do they have anything else? Why don’t they come and confront me?
“The attack on me earlier this year was inhuman, with the tragedy that I had. I would love that if I did these things that I was accused of, you sit with me, challenge me and confront me.
“But don’t fabricate and throw things at me, and then when I tell you to prove it, you run away and don’t come back. That is not the way.”
Keyword: FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem denies sexism accusations and claims he is target of ‘inhuman’ smear campaign