Diane Abbott accuses BBC of legitimising racist abuse in Question Time row

Posted On: 
18th January 2019

Diane Abbott has accused the BBC of "legitimising" racist abuse after the Labour frontbencher was barracked on Question Time.

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In a fierce broadside against the corporation, a spokesperson said the Shadow Home Secretary had been "jeered at and interrupted more times than any other panellist", including by the show's new host, Fiona Bruce.

They also said that Ms Abbott had been targeted "as a black woman in public life".

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Audience members claimed on social media that Ms Abbott had been singled out during the warm-up for the show as well as when it was being recorded - allegations which the BBC has denied.

Jyoti Wilkinson, who works for Labour MP Chris Williamson and was in the audience, accused Ms Bruce of making references to Ms Abbott's "relationship" with Jeremy Corbyn before the show began.

He said: "This level of deliberate antagonism from the BBC is a disgrace, and the institution now desperately needs to be held to account."

Critics also pointed to a part of the show when Ms Abbott was challenged by Ms Bruce when she claimed Labour is "kind of level-pegging" with the Tories in the opinion polls.

The host said Labour was "definitely" behind, despite some giving the party a small lead of showing it neck-and-neck with the Conservatives.

In a statement, Ms Abbott's spokesperson said: "We are appalled by the treatment of Diane Abbott on BBC’s Question Time. It was clear that a hostile atmosphere was whipped up, propped up by reports of inappropriate and sexist commentary in the audience warm-up session

"A public broadcaster like the BBC should be expected to be a model of impartiality and equality. The BBC cannot claim anything of the sort when analysis of the programme shows that the only black woman on the panel was jeered at and interrupted more times than any other panellist, including by the chair herself.

"The media must stop legitimising mistreatment, bias and abuse against Ms Abbott as a black woman in public life. The BBC should be ashamed that their programming is complicit in such behaviour."

A BBC spokesperson said: "We are sorry to hear Diane Abbott’s concerns over last night’s edition of Question Time and we have contacted her team today to reassure them that reports circulating on social media are inaccurate and misleading.

"Diane is a regular and important contributor to the programme … we firmly reject claims that any of the panel was treated unfairly either before or during the recording."

Ms Abbott received support on Twitter from Labour MPs.