Chris Evans has revealed he turned to his 91-year-old mother for advice after coming under fire for his £2.2m-£2.5m pay packet.
The Radio 2 and former Top Gear presenter has faced questions after he was revealed to be the BBC’s biggest earning star, with his wage at least four times that of the highest paid woman, Strictly’s Claudia Winkleman (who earns £450,000-£499,999).
Speaking on his breakfast show this morning, Evans acknowledged the criticism and said his 91-year-old mother had told him to “earn what you can, when you can, while you can”.
Evans said: “There’s lots of news in the papers about lots of different things, but also there’s quite a bit to say the least about the BBC, as you can imagine.
“Here’s a question – what do you say when confronted with the question: are you embarrassed about what you earn? Are you ashamed of what you earn? How do you react to that question when all you’re doing is coming to work every day like you have been for years to fulfil an agreed contract?
“Frankly, I had no idea what to say. I’ve been asked that question and so have many of my colleagues over the last 24 hours. I was asked that again this morning by a film crew as I ran into work.
He continued: “So here’s what I did. I called my mum. She’s 91, she’s very wise, she was in the war, and I asked her what she thought.
“She said: ‘Hang on a minute, love, let me just turn the telly down’, she was watching Columbo on catch-up at the time, as she often is.
“She said: ‘Tell them that your mum, who’s a nurse for most of her life, always told you after your dad died to try to find a job you loved, just like I love nursing, and earn what you can, when you can, while you can – which you did almost straight away from when you were a paper boy earning £1.50 a week for freezing your bits off and falling off your bike every two minutes, right through until what you’re doing now.
“‘And tell them – if your bosses don’t think you’re worth it one day, they’ll sort that out soon enough’.”
Evans added: “So there you are – I’m going with what my mum said and that’s it. I don’t think you tune into this show to hear us talk about these things but I had to say that this morning and had to be right and proper that I said that.
“I thank my mum for advice, as always, I live by her word and I will die by her word.”
It is a possibility that Evans’ wage will shrink after the BBC’s Director of Radio and Education, James Purnell, told Newsnight that pay cuts may be made to balance the inequality between male and female on-air talent.
The BBC pay packet unveiling revealed almost two-thirds of its on-screen stars earning more than £150,000 a year are male – 62 men to 34 women.
The figures also showed huge differences in the pay of the BBC’s news anchors. Huw Edwards, who presents the flagship 10pm news bulletin, earned between £550,000 and £600,000 in the last financial year, but Bruce, who presents the 6pm news as well as Antiques Roadshow, was shown to garner between £350,000 and £400,000.
Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis did not make the list of those paid over £150,000.