BBC 'burying its head in the sand' over Gary Lineker's asylum tweets

BBC ‘is burying its head in the sand’ over Gary Lineker’s asylum tweets as pressure grows for boss Tim Davie to sack the £1.35m-a-year star

  • BBC accused of ‘sticking their head in the sand’ after Gary Lineker comments
  • Lineker doubled-down on comparing migrant crackdown to Nazi Germany

The BBC has been accused of ‘sticking their head in the sand’ as Gary Lineker doubled-down over his comments comparing the Government’s migrant crackdown to Nazi Germany

As the corporation remained silent today over the controversy, Lineker defiantly resumed posting on social media this morning, saying he had never known such ‘love and support’.

But the political pressure over his comments intensified today as Downing Street described the criticism as ‘not acceptable’ and ‘disappointing’, while the home secretary, Mrs Braverman, said his comments were ‘irresponsible’. Immigration minister Robert Jenrick added he was ‘so far out of step with the British public’.

The BBC is facing calls from MPs to sack the corporation’s highest paid star, who is on £1.35 million a year, over the ‘outrageous slur’ he made in the tweet yesterday.

Amid a sense of growing crisis over the row, BBC insiders said it was time for the corporation’s director-general, Tim Davie to ‘make a key call’ on Lineker, adding ‘it’s now about the mettle Tim has got’. They added it was one of the ‘biggest tests’ Mr Davie has faced during his tenure.

Gary Lineker ‘crossed a line’ by comparing Suella Braverman’s migrant crackdown to Nazi Germany, BBC sources said last night

BBC insiders said it was time for the corporation’s director-general, Tim Davie to ‘make a key call’ on Lineker, adding ‘it’s now about the mettle Tim has got’

The corporation’s highest-paid star, who is on £1.35million a year, will be rebuked by bosses for attacking the Home Secretary’s plans to ‘stop the boats’. Suella Braverman told BBC Breakfast today that Gary Lineker’s comments were disappointing

Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker compared the Government’s migrant crackdown to Nazi Germany

Many were amazed that rather than avoiding any further controversy, Lineker this morning was back on Twitter 

They added on Lineker: ‘I think he’s past the tipping point of causing us damage.’

Another BBC source said they expected Lineker to the leave the corporation over the row.

This comes amid reports that the Match of the Day host, 62, is not responding to BBC calls about the controversy and that he will not remove the tweet. But claims he was not responding to calls were refuted today.

In yesterday’s controversial the TV presenter had shared online a video of Suella Braverman outlining the Illegal Migration Bill, then accused her of promoting an ‘immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s’.

Rishi Sunak said migrant removal flights to Rwanda could begin by the summer

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, onboard a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel on Monday

One source at the BBC said journalists in the corporation’s news division were ‘boiling’ at the star’s social media posts, adding ‘impartiality must be sacrosanct’. There are concerns that Lineker is ‘harming the perception of the BBC overall’.

Talking to the corporation’s media editor Katie Razzall on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, presenter Nick Robinson said: ‘Let’s be clear, if you or I said something like this, we would be fired’.

He added that if Lineker says he will carry on in the same manner, ‘they’ve got to decide from the director general down whether they fire a guy who is very popular and very good at what he does.’

There is expectation that the director-general will have to handle the situation personally with Lineker.

Gary Lineker’s long list of Twitter controversies

October 2022 

Gary Lineker breached BBC impartiality rules with a social media post criticising the Tories, the broadcaster’s complaints team ruled.

The Match of the Day host, 62, used Twitter to quote an article about Liz Truss – then foreign secretary – urging Premier League teams to boycott the Champions League final in Russia.

In his post, the former England striker, who has more than 8.7million followers on Twitter, added: ‘And her party will hand back their donations from Russian donors?’.

August 2022 

Lineker sparked a row with a senior BBC journalist this year with a Tweet about sewerage.

He wrote on Twitter: ‘As a politician how could you ever, under any circumstances, bring yourself to vote for pumping sewage into our seas? Unfathomable!’

The tweet prompted veteran BBC journalist Neil Henderson, a home and foreign news editor, to ask the £1.35million-a-year presenter if his contract allowed him to breach the corporation’s impartiality rules. 

The journalist wrote to him: ‘The BBC lives or dies by its impartiality. If you can’t abide it, get off it.’

Mr Henderson, following discussions with BBC bosses, later issued an apology. 

July 2022  

Lineker found himself at odds with ex-racing driver turned Sky commentator Martin Brundle over his response to a Just Stop Oil protest.

Protesters stormed the British Grand Prix, sparking fury from Brundle, who said they could have been killed.

Lineker tweeted: ‘History will look back very favourably on these people’. 

But Brundle replied: ‘Gary please don’t encourage this reckless behaviour. ‘They’d have been sliced into 100 pieces and fans, marshals and drivers were wholly at risk of injury and death. I totally support freedom of speech and opinion, but do it responsibly.’ 

February 2018 

Lineker was challenged over his comments on Brexit by BBC cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew.

Lineker has been vocal in his opposition to Brexit, including on Twitter and attending a rally in 2018 calling for a second referendum.

Agnew, responding to one of Lineker’s posts, Tweeted: ‘Gary. You are the face of BBC Sport. Please observe BBC editorial guidelines and keep your political views, whatever they are and whatever the subject, to yourself. I’d be sacked if I followed your example. Thanks.’

Yesterday BBC News approached Mr Davie for comment on the issue, asking him how many ‘strikes’ the presenter has had so far.

He replied: ‘I wouldn’t talk specifically about individuals, I don’t think it’s right.

‘I think the BBC absolutely puts the highest value on impartiality and that’s clearly important to us.’

Many were amazed that rather than avoiding any further controversy, Lineker this morning was back on Twitter.

He wrote: ‘Morning all. Anything going on?’

He added: ‘Great to see the freedom of speech champions out in force this morning demanding silence from those with whom they disagree.’

‘I have never known such love and support in my life than I’m getting this morning (England World Cup goals aside, possibly),’ he also wrote. ‘I’ll continue to try and speak up for those poor souls that have no voice.’

Yesterday the BBC declined to comment on Lineker’s latest remarks.

Tory MP Peter Bone told The Mail+: ‘There is no point sticking their head in the sand and hoping it will go away. It won’t. He will do it again anyway.’

He added: ‘If they don’t reprimand Mr Lineker, then what they are saying their policy is, is not true.’

Conservative MP, Scott Benton, added: ‘The fact that the BBC has gone quiet on this issue is a shocking indictment of their leadership and it really is time they stood up and made it clear, that if somebody breaks their own code of conduct, on politicising issues such as this, they should be shown the door.’

Acting chair of the digital, culture, media and sport committee, Tory MP, Damian Green, told The Mail +: ‘Gary Lineker has become a serial offender against any guidelines the BBC seems to have. BBC management surely has to act this time.’

There were suggestions yesterday that Lineker would be rebuked ‘very promptly’ as it was clear a ‘line has been crossed’.

But today the corporation was sticking to its previous statement: ‘Individuals who work for us are aware of their responsibilities relating to social media. We have appropriate internal processes in place if required.’

Today the Prime Minister’s press secretary said: ‘It’s obviously disappointing to see someone whose salary is funded by hard-working British (licence fee) payers using that kind of rhetoric and seemingly dismissing their legitimate concerns that they have about small boats crossings and illegal migration.

‘But beyond that, it’s up to the BBC, who I think have said today that they’ll be having a conversation with Gary Lineker, and it’s not for me to comment further.’

Mrs Braverman had told ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB) she was ‘very disappointed’ by his comments.

She added: ‘Equating our measures – which are lawful, necessary and fundamentally compassionate – to 1930s Germany is irresponsible and I disagree with that characterisation.’

Asked if Lineker should resign or be sacked, she said: ‘That’s a matter for the BBC and they will resolve that.’

Mr Jenrick told Times Radio: ‘My children are the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and I think those sorts of words should not be thrown around lightly.

‘Gary Lineker is paid for by the British taxpayer and it’s disappointing that he is so far out of step with the British public.’

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper also said she did not think it is ‘right to make comparisons with the 1930s’ after the comments, but ‘people can have their own views’.

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