Ex-Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull has said the BBC were “pretty unfair” to Naga Munchetty following her reaction to comments made by President Donald Trump.
Speaking in the latest issue of Radio Times (out Tuesday 15th October) about his former colleague – who was the subject of a viewer complaint alleging she had breached impartiality rules – Turnbull claimed the BBC could have better handled the incident.
“What happened to Naga made me cross because I know the amount of crap she’s had to put up with on pretty much a daily basis in her life,” Turnbull said.
When after to clarify if he was referring to racism, Turnbull replied: “Yes. And for that to happen to her just seems to me pretty unfair.”
Although the decision was overturned by BBC boss Lord Hall, the broadcaster initially ruled Munchetty “breached editorial guidelines”.
Speaking about BBC impartiality rules, Turnbull said: “There is a line to hold, but I think they were holding it in the wrong place. If you’re going to get into trouble for calling out racism, even if you don’t do it exactly according to the BBC regulations, then they need to rethink.
“They failed to understand the stigma of the ruling for Naga. It’s a mark on your record forever. They could have had a quiet word.”
The complaints emerged after a BBC Breakfast show on 17th July this year, in which Munchetty addressed Donald Trump’s remarks that “progressive Democrat Congresswomen” should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”.
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) July 17, 2019
Discussing the comments, Munchetty told co-host Dan Walker: “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. I can imagine lots of people in this country will be feeling absolutely furious that a man in that position feels it’s okay to skirt the lines with using language like that.”
Ofcom later ruled that Munchetty’s comments were impartial as her “own experience of racism was not a matter of political controversy”.
Turnbull is set to appear in Documentary Bill Turnbull: Staying Alive (10pm, Thursday 24th October, C4) in which the presenter documents his experience living with incurable prostate cancer.
The latest issue of Radio Times, featuring a full interview with Bill Turnbull, is out Tuesday 14th October