Naga Munchetty says she stands by her Trump comments

Presenter speaks for first time about being censured by BBC over racism remarks

Naga Munchetty has spoken for the first time about the “horrible” experience of being censured for remarks she made about Donald Trump.

The BBC Breakfast presenter said she stood by the comments she made in July about Trump telling four US congresswomen to “go back home”.

When asked about the US president’s comments by her co-presenter, Dan Walker, she 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,” adding that she was “absolutely furious” at Trump’s choice of words.

In an interview with British Vogue, Munchetty denied her comments were unprofessional and said it was not her job to “be a robot”.

“One of the balancing acts of being a Breakfast presenter is being comfortable enough to show who you are and your personality,” she said. “You have to show empathy. You cannot sit there and be a robot on that sofa.

“And I do stand by it. It is not OK to use offensive language, or to skirt around offensive language, to make a point or get attention.”

In September, the broadcaster decided, following a complaint, that Munchetty’s comments had breached guidelines.

The move was widely condemned and an open letter was sent to the Guardian by 61 broadcasters, including Afua Hirsch, Lenny Henry and Krishnan Guru-Murthy, demanding it reconsider its decision. Days later, the BBC director general, Tony Hall, reversed the ruling, saying the complaints unit had made the wrong call.

Discussing what was going through her mind when she made the comments, Munchetty described the racist abuse she and her family had received growing up in south London.

“My parents have always been absolutely professional and caring as nurses. They came to a country that wasn’t always welcoming to people of colour, to be the best they could be. And they were told to go home all the time.”

But Munchetty said “very positive things” had come out of the incident and she now had regular meetings with Hall, who “wants to listen”.

“What it has done is raise an uncomfortable conversation that needed to be raised,” she said.

Asked whether the BBC was institutionally racist, Munchetty said: “I’m going to turn this on its head: find me a large organisation, and find me an employee from a minority group who feels they are able to bring their true self to work today. I don’t think you’ll be able to.”

Sam Gelder

The GuardianTramp

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