Gaunt is a racist, claims MEP after stormy debate

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The Independent Online

The radio presenter and newspaper columnist Jon Gaunt has been publicly accused of racism by an MEP after an on-air debate on immigration descended into an acrimonious row in the European Parliament.

The talkSPORT presenter, known for his trenchantly populist views and inflammatory column in The Sun, had invited the Finnish MEP Alexander Stubb to speak on a show he was hosting from the parliamentary building in Brussels.

After a heated exchange during the programme, the discussion on EU border policy turned personal when, in front of onlookers, Mr Stubb accused the British presenter of being racist and Mr Gaunt, in typically pugnacious style, replied "fuck off".

Afterwards the host was heard, according to an observer, being reprimanded as "unprofessional" by his producer and reminded that he was recording in an open area of the European Parliament building.

Mr Gaunt had invited Mr Stubb, an MEP for Finland's centre right and pro-European National Coalition Party, to discuss Britain's position in the EU during a special edition from Brussels on Thursday of his regular lunch-time current affairs show. During the live debate, Mr Gaunt argued that immigration was suffocating Britain and spoke in favour of closed borders, a viewpoint which prompted Mr Stubb to respond that the freedom of people and services in the EU was a positive development. Mr Gaunt accused the politician of inferring he was racist, which Mr Stubb denied.

The debate became even more tense when Mr Gaunt suggested the MEP did not have a very good grasp of the English language and blamed this for not getting the responses he wanted from the politician. Mr Stubb is married to an English woman, did a PhD at the London School of Economics, and has published eight books about the EU in English.

After the show, the two men brusquely shook hands before the presenter said: "I do not appreciate being called a racist on my own show." Mr Stubb retorted, "I did not call you a racist but you are one", and was promptly sworn at by the presenter in the presence of a senior European Parliament official. Mr Stubb angrily replied: "You have invited me on to this show, and you are now telling me, as an elected member of the European Union, to fuck off?"

Afterwards Mr Stubb, who insists he has "always been of the opinion that matters must be discussed openly and honestly", said: "It was perhaps the most lively interview I have been engaged in. The presenter did not have his best day, and as someone who follows the British media, I know this was an isolated incident. When we talk about the EU and immigration we have to be very careful and I never called him a racist on the programme. Perhaps the key to any discussions on radio and television is, you have got to be asked the questions and then be allowed to answer the questions and this was not the case."

Sean Dilley a senior Talksport producer, denied reprimanding the presenter adding: "You would not have heard me say he was unprofessional and I do not wish to comment further.

"I enjoyed the debate with Mr Stubb. It was possibly the most lively of the day. He is a very well-known and well-respected federalist and it provided free and passionate debate."

A spokesman for Mr Gaunt added: "We are not going to comment on Jon's conversation yesterday with the Finnish MEP as it was off air."

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