Munchetty row deepens – co-star was included in original complaint
BBC presenter Naga Munchetty’s co-host Dan Walker was included in the original complaint which led to her being disciplined over remarks made about Donald Trump, correspondence seen by Sky News shows.
Munchetty was found to have been in breach of BBC editorial guidelines when she said on air that the US president’s call for a group of female Democrats to “go back” to their own countries was “embedded in racism”.
It sparked a huge backlash, with many questioning why the broadcaster was penalising only Munchetty and not Walker, who also spoke about the issue, as well as the decision itself.
David Jordan, the BBC’s director of editorial policy and standards, said on two occasions that Walker could not be included in the rebuke as he was not referred to in the specific complaint that was partially upheld by the corporation’s executive complaints unit (ECU).
It has now emerged that the initial complaint, which did not go before the ECU, did include Walker – with the viewer describing the presenter as “very unprofessional” and accusing him of “repeatedly expressing incredulity” that Mr Trump’s remarks could be defended.
“Dan Walker, whilst interviewing a guest about President Trump’s recent tweets regarding 4 Democrat politicians in the USA, repeatedly expressed incredulity that anybody could defend Trump’s tweets,” the complaint said. “Very unprofessionally, he then asked his fellow presenter Naga Munchetty for her personal opinions on this news story!
“She foolishly complied with his request and launched into an attack on Trump, including stating that she was personally ‘furious’ about his comments.”
It is understood that the complainant was unhappy with the response to their initial criticism and appealed to the ECU, but then focused only on Munchetty’s comments rather than Walker’s.
In a statement, a BBC spokesperson told Sky News: “The appeal to the ECU focused on comments by one presenter, but the statement from the executive team is clear – the BBC is not impartial on racism.
“Racism is not an opinion and it is not a matter for debate. Racism is racism. Naga has the very clear support of the top of the organisation.”
The BBC ruled that Munchetty crossed the line during a Breakfast show broadcast in July, when she commented on controversial statements made by Mr Trump directed at rival politicians Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley.
The corporation has been heavily criticised for the decision, with a petition calling for it to be reversed attracting more than 16,000 signatures.
Sir Lenny Henry, comedian Gina Yashere and actor Adrian Lester were among a host of stars to write to the broadcaster branding its stance as “deeply flawed” and “illegal”.
Elsewhere, the likes of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Chancellor Sajid Javid have also criticised the ruling and aired support for Munchetty.
Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom will also assess what was said.