MP challenges John Humphrys over Carrie Gracie pay comments during Today interview

Lib Dem deputy leader Jo Swinson threw a curveball question to the Today anchor at the end of her interview

John Humphrys

John Humphrys was put on the spot during Radio 4’s Today programme as he was quizzed live on air about the Carrie Gracie pay row.

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The presenter came under fire after a recording was leaked of him joking about “handing over” pay to Carrie Gracie, the BBC China editor who had just quit because of unequal pay. He was slammed for “base, smug and condescending” off-air jokes.

At the end of an interview on Thursday morning with Lib Dem deputy leader Jo Swinson about sexual harassment in Parliament, the MP turned the tables on Humphrys. She said: “While I’ve got you here John, can I just ask: have you apologised to Carrie Gracie for the remarks that you made…”

Humphrys interrupted, saying: “I wrote an email to Carrie Gracie immediately after that exchange, yes I did as a matter of fact. And she replied. But quite what this has to do with what we’re discussing here, I fail to see. But there we are. That has answered your question.”

(BBC Radio 4, JG)
Carrie Gracie hosting Today on Radio 4 (BBC)

Swinson responded, “It wouldn’t be the first time there’d been a question thrown in at the end of an interview.”

“It wouldn’t,” Humphrys said. “But usually they’re slightly more relevant. This is entirely irrelevant, however there we are. I’ve answered your question.”

Following Humphrys’ leaked comments in which he joked about Gracie’s pay off-air with Jon Sopel, Humphrys defended the conversation as “silly banter between old mates”, but BBC management released a statement saying they were “deeply unimpressed” with the presenter.

Last summer official figures released by the BBC showed that Humphrys was paid between £600,000 and £649,000 a year for presenting Today and Mastermind.

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Last month, Humphrys revealed that he had offered to take a voluntary pay cut at the BBC amid the controversy over the gender pay gap.