BBC backtracks on racism ruling involving TV presenter

5:31 pm on 1 October 2019

The BBC's director general Lord Hall has reversed a decision to partially uphold a complaint against Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty.

BBC Breakfast presenters Dan Walker and Naga Munchetty

BBC Breakfast cohosts Dan Walker and Naga Munchetty were discussing President Donald Trump's criticism of four Democratic Congresswomen which prompted Munchetty to recount her own experiences. Photo: Supplied / YouTube

He told staff that Munchetty's words were not "sufficient to merit a partial uphold" of the complaint against her.

She had criticised the US President Donald Trump's motives after he said four female politicians of colour should "go back" to "places from which they came".

Mr Hall said he "personally" reviewed the decision of the complaints unit.

He reiterated that "racism is racism and the BBC is not impartial on the topic".

The corporation said the complaint was originally partially upheld because its editorial guidelines "do not allow for journalists to... give their opinions about the individual making the remarks or their motives for doing so - in this case President Trump".

It comes after dozens of black actors and broadcasters called on the BBC to overturn its decision to uphold the complaint against Munchetty.

In an email to BBC staff, Mr Hall said: "Many of you asked that I personally review the decision of the ECU. I have done so. I have looked carefully at all the arguments that have been made and assessed all of the materials.

"I have also examined the complaint itself. It was only ever in a limited way that there was found to be a breach of our guidelines. These are often finely balanced and difficult judgements.

"But, in this instance, I don't think Naga's words were sufficient to merit a partial uphold of the complaint around the comments she made.

"There was never any sanction against Naga and I hope this step makes that absolutely clear."

He added that she was an "exceptional" journalist and that he has asked editorial and leadership teams "to discuss how we manage live exchanges on air around these topics in the future".

What did Naga Munchetty say in the first place?

Breakfast co-host Dan Walker: It's the president. That was the most telling quote for me last night. I can't remember who said it, but she said, 'I've been told to go home many times to go back to where I've come from many times in my life, but never by the man sitting in the Oval Office'.

Munchetty: Every time I have been told, as a woman of colour, to go back to where I came from, that was embedded in racism. Now I'm not accusing anyone of anything here but you know what certain phrases mean.

Walker: Do you hear that quite regularly?

Munchetty: Yes. Not regularly, but I've been told it.

Walker: You're sitting here not giving an opinion, but how do you feel as someone when you've been told that before, and when you hear that from him?

Munchetty: Furious. Absolutely furious. And I imagine a lot of people in this country will be feeling absolutely furious that a man in that position feels it's OK to skirt the lines with using language like that.

Walker: Do you feel his use of that then legitimises other people to use this…

Munchetty: Yes. Yes.

Walker: As our guest was saying there, it feels like a thought-out strategy to strengthen his position.

Munchetty: And it is not enough to do it just to get attention. He's in a responsible position. Anyway I'm not here to give my opinion.


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