Clive Myrie opens up about racist death threats: ‘He threatened to do something “unspeakable” to me’

He also told Hay Festival audiences about his choice for a specialist subject on ‘Mastermind’

Martin Chilton
Sunday 26 May 2024 11:26 BST
Clive Myrie speaking at Hay Festival
Clive Myrie speaking at Hay Festival (Adam Tatton-Reid and Hay Festival)

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BBC news anchor and Mastermind presenter Clive Myrie reminded a Hay Festival audience about the “scary moment” that he received death threats from a far-right extremist.

He recalled how the man, from Yorkshire, began his menacing campaign after he had filmed a report about gun violence in America in which the presenter described himself as “an Englishman”. Myrie, who was born in Bolton to Windrush parents from Jamaica, said that the incident, in 2017, was a reminder of the lengths to which some people might go with race hatred.

“The man said, ‘you ain’t English’ and threatened to do something ‘unspeakable’ to me and ended with death threats. The man was later arrested and prosecuted and it turned out he had access to firearms and was done by the police for illegal possession of a handgun,” Myrie added.

Chairperson Kirsty Lang, also a noted BBC broadcaster, said that she found one of the most depressing things about Myrie’s new book Everything Is Everything: A Memoir of Love, Hate & Hope (Hodder & Stoughton), was that the racism he had experienced from bigoted viewers “had gone up in recent years”.

Myrie, who turns 60 in August, said he put it down to his “high visibility” as a news presenter and award-winning host of Mastermind and he detailed some of the other “absolutely bizarre” abuse he has received. “I have even been sent dried faeces in the post,” he told the audience at the Global Stage. He said one of the biggest changes since he started out is that Black journalists are now “judged by their skill and not their colour”.

His memoir deals with the experiences of his parents and how his father always “regretted” leaving Jamaica. He told the audiences about his uncles, who had fought for the RAF in World War Two, and paid tribute to the devotion of the Windrush generation, who came to Britain in the 1950s to deal with a labour shortage. “My parents faced a lot of racism and a lot of pain. They overcame that to make their home in a multicultural Britain. If there is a place I would want to live it’s in a multicultural Britain and the Windrush generation helped usher that in,” he said.

The presenter, who paid tribute to role models Alan Whicker and Trevor McDonald, said he started in the media as a paper boy. “Like all good dealers, I sampled my own product and read all the papers at a young age,” he joked. He said his parents did not regard journalism as a “proper job” and said he studied law and was admitted to the Bar before accepting a place on a BBC graduate scheme. “My parents didn’t forgive me until I started presenting Mastermind,” he added.

Myrie, who spent four years in Los Angeles and three years in Washington DC, talked at length about his anger and bemusement at the gun violence in America. He also talked about his passion for US politics and said he hopes to be reporting on the November presidential election, which may feature a re-run of Joe Biden against Donald Trump. Myrie said that 81-year Biden does not get enough credit for the positive state of the US economy and joked that “you have just got to hope Biden doesn’t come across as someone who will fall over.”

Myrie took over from John Humphrys as Mastermind host in 2021. He was asked whether he would have a specialist subject if he took part in the quiz and replied: “No. I am a classic journalist. I know a little bit about a lot of stuff. I wax lyrical. I basically bulls***.”

Hay Festival runs until 2 June;

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