Simpson says sorry for 'grandstanding' after fall of Kabul

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The Independent Online

The veteran war reporter John Simpson has apologised for his "embarrassing" grandstand performance in which he claimed during a live broadcast that he had liberated Kabul.

The BBC world affairs editor, who was widely ridiculed for his breathless comments shortly before the Afghan capital fell to the Northern Alliance last Tuesday, admitted yesterday he had "got a bit carried away".

Mr Simpson, who infuriated his BBC colleagues and his rivals by claiming on Radio 4's Today programme to have liberated the city, said that he had been misunderstood.

He told BBC's Breakfast with Frost: "I walked down through this vast great crowd and they were so delighted to see us. I got a bit carried away really. I got excited. I can't help it. It was a fantastic moment.

"What I should have said of course was that we brought the news to people in Kabul that they had been liberated.

"I kind of shortened it down from the first word to the last word of the sentence. What can you do? I regret it. But I don't regret being there a long way in advance."

Mr Simpson, who has sent dispatches from 101 countries during his 32-year career, showed no such contrition towards criticism from his rivals. "I can't help thinking some of it is a little bit of sour grapes that other people weren't there with us, but maybe that's just my nasty nature."

Western media operating in Afghanistan were enraged at Mr Simpson's dispatches in which he claimed to have been the first to enter the capital. Many pointed out that Kabul was "swarming" with reporters and that his BBC colleagues William Reeve and Rageh Omar had already been there for a week.

Mr Simpson conceded that he shouldn't have taken sole credit for the operation in which he led a small crew into the city by foot, bicycle and taxi a few miles ahead of conquering Northern Alliance troops.

But he insisted: "We were the first – it was we, it was the BBC, it wasn't just me. There were four colleagues, five colleagues of mine walking alongside me so it really wasn't me. It was the BBC, and everybody else ... was behind us. Some of them hours and hours and hours behind us."