BBC should have defended Naga Munchetty, says Breakfast co-host

Dan Walker says conversation about Trump’s racist remarks was part of connecting with viewers

BBC Breakfast’s Dan Walker believes his bosses should have done more to defend his co-host Naga Munchetty after she found herself in the middle of a row over racist comments by the US president, Donald Trump.

Munchetty was briefly censured by the BBC last year, after viewer complaints over her decision to state on air she was “absolutely furious” at Trump’s decision to tell four US congresswomen to “go back home” in a conversation with Walker.

The decision by the corporation’s editorial complaints unit to rule against Munchetty prompted a widespread outcry and rebellion among BBC staff, especially among minority ethnic employees.

The Guardian later revealed that Walker had also been the subject of the original viewer complaint but was not given any formal warning, helping to push the director general Tony Hall into reversing his decision.

Walker, making his first comments on the row, told the Radio Times he had offered to speak up on his colleague’s behalf: “I felt I should have said something in support of her, but she didn’t want any more attention. The day the story came out, I wrote to Tony Hall, saying, ‘If Naga is guilty, then I’m guilty’. At the time I didn’t know I’d been mentioned in the original complaint.”

Walker said their conversation about Trump was part of their connection with Breakfast’s viewers: “We are there to share a bit of ourselves, and maybe we shared a bit too much. At the time it felt a very natural conversation. We knew in that moment that it was different to the sort of things we usually talk about. But I don’t regret it, and I don’t think Naga does either.

“The BBC should have given a more robust defence of their presenters. We do think it could have been dealt with very differently. It was the right decision to overturn the original finding, but it didn’t need to get that far. Both of us felt we sailed near the line but we didn’t cross it. They came round to the right decision eventually. They’ve apologised to Naga.”

Last month Munchetty told British Vogue she stood by the comments and 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. 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.”

Walker, who earns £280,000 a year, also told the Radio Times he was “embarrassed” to have his salary published and explained why he regularly pushes back on comments made by rival ITV breakfast programme host Piers Morgan: “He hates that we still get double the audience every morning, despite all the money they’ve spent on Good Morning Britain.”


Jim Waterson Media editor

The GuardianTramp

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