BBC Breakfast host Naga Munchetty went “beyond what guidelines allow for” by criticising comments made by Donald Trump, the corporation’s complaints unit has ruled.
Munchetty spoke out against the US president for perceived racism over a tweet posted in July in which he said that congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley should “go back to the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”.
When the tweet was discussed on BBC One’s morning news programme the following day, Munchetty said: “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.”
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She added that she felt “absolutely furious” that “a man in that position thinks it’s OK to skirt the lines by using language like that”.
However, an internal investigation was launched after a viewer complained that Munchetty had breached the BBC’s strict guidelines around impartiality.
Announcing the verdict this week, the complaints unit said that Munchetty had overstepped the mark in expressing a personal opinion while broadcasting in her capacity as a BBC journalist.
A spokesperson added that “while Ms Munchetty was entitled to give a personal response to the phrase ‘go back to your own country’ as it was rooted in her own experience, overall her comments went beyond what the guidelines allow for”.
But many viewers and commentators disagree. Writing for HuffPost, Scottish-Pakistani writer Amna Saleem says that the BBC’s verdict “adds salt to the wound” that was opened by Trump’s “go home” remarks.
She accuses the Beeb of “gaslighting us into doubting the meaning behind these potent words” and “undermining the first-hand experience of brown and black people to whom the phrase is all too painful and familiar”.
Labour MP David Lammy MP says the BBC’s verdict is “appalling”, while LBC radio’s political editor Theo Usherwood tweeted: “If journalists can’t walk outside and tell you if it’s raining, then there is little point in having journalists.”
Even Piers Morgan, who has repeatedly defended Trump in the past, says the BBC’s decision is “bloody ridiculous”.
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