Sunday, 20 Sep 2020

Naga Munchetty should be given apology after Donald Trump race row says Trevor Phillips

The corporation sparked a backlash for upholding a complaint against the Breakfast presenter for criticising remarks made by President Donald Trump. An executive then seemed to blame co-host Dan Walker, 42, for leading her into talking about her own experience of racism. Mr Phillips said: “The minute they have to deal with the question of race, they go into a mental paralysis.” 

The BBC found Ms Munchetty, 44, of Indian and Mauritian heritage, had breached guidelines after attacking the US president’s remarks that four female opposition politicians of colour should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came”. 

Black media figures including Sir Lenny Henry and Adrian Lester wrote a joint letter protesting against the decision. 

Some BBC colleagues defied bosses by publicly voicing support for Ms Munchetty. 

The BBC found she was wrong to give her opinion on Mr Trump’s motive. She is not facing any disciplinary action or a reprimand. 

Yesterday Mr Phillips said that director general Lord Tony Hall should rescind the judgment and stop managers warning staff discussing the issue or signing petitions was a breach of its code of conduct.

The former Equality and Human Rights Commission chairman said Ms Munchetty had simply been carrying out her journalistic duties. 

“The corporation above everything else needs to apologise to this journalist. 

“They followed the process absolutely precisely and did the bureaucratic thing to the tee and came out with a decision that was so completely mad and wrong and undermined the BBC’s own journalistic values.” 

He said that Westminster correspondents often gave an opinion on politicians’ motives. 

Sir Simon Woolley, director of Operation Black Vote said: “She has not done anything wrong. The BBC has got itself in a right mess. 

“The BBC needs to be big enough and say we don’t always get it right and on reflection when someone like Trump makes repeated remarks, it is fair to suggest they are racist or their motive may be racist.” 

Yesterday BBC colleague Andrew Marr tweeted: “I’m a massive admirer of Naga, and I think she’s behaved with great courage, grace and calmness.” 

Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis said the BBC risked looking “massively out of touch with the real world” for saying it was right to call out racism but wrong to say Trump was a racist. 

Dark Materials novelist Sir Philip Pullman said: “She’s right and they’re wrong.” 

As the row raged after the initial findings, with the BBC finding itself accused of racism and sexism, senior bosses including Tony Hall wrote a letter to staff claiming Ms Munchetty was “justified” in speaking out. 

Then BBC editorial policy director David Jordan brought co-host Walker into the row, saying it could be said that he led Munchetty to the conclusion she eventually made. 

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