Who is Dan Wootton? GB News host facing sex pic scandal suspended over Laurence Fox interview

Journalist’ suspension - and sacking by MailOnline - over the Fox interview comes after he separately faced allegations of offering colleagues money for sexual images

Barney Davis
Friday 29 September 2023 06:39 BST
Laurence Fox's offensive attack on female journalist broadcast live on GB News

GB News presenter Dan Wootton has been suspended by the channel and sacked by MailOnline after an interview with Laurence Fox faced widespread criticism.

The 40-year-old host was taken off air on Wednesday after failing to stop Fox’s ‘misogynist’ outburst and laughing at derogatory comments about Ava Evans, a political correspondent for online news site, Joe. GB News, which has billed itself as the “home of free speech”, has also banned Fox from further appearances and promised a “full investigation”.

Wooton’s woes deepened on Thursday when the Mail website said it had terminated his column, which had already been put on hold following separate allegations against him.

Dan Wootton during an interview with Laurence Fox (right) on an episode of Dan Wootton Tonight (PA)

Wootton, who apologised online saying he should have “intervened immediately to challenge [Fox’s] offensive and misogynistic remarks”, was dragged back into the mire when Fox released screenshots of his Twitter interaction where the New Zealand-born showbiz reporter seemed amused by the row.

The unverified direct message shows Wootton sending cry-face emojis back to Fox adding: “You can imagine them freaking out in the gallery” after the rant which he had just publicly denigrated.

Who is Dan Wootton?

Born in 1983 in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, to British parents, Wootton was raised in Lower Hutt, a city to the east of Wellington Harbour. He was a near contemporary of future Oscar-winner Anna Paquin in this English-speaking enclave of the Pacific Ocean.

In 2004 Wootton made the decision to move to the UK, reversing his parents’ migration a few decades earlier. Despite promising gigs as a cub reporter at The Dominion Post, one of New Zealand’s top dailies, and on the TVNZ 1 show Good Morning, the lure of European celebrity culture was too strong.

Where has he worked?

After a brief flirtation with becoming a financial journalist (“I was dealing with hedge fund managers who would have had fortunes of £100,000,000 or something,” he later told a website for New Zealand expats, “and here I was earning absolutely no money, and talking to them about something I knew nothing about”) Wootton found himself gravitating towards entertainment journalism.

By 2007 he had bagged a plum job as TV reporter at the News of the World, and, when the paper was shuttered in scandal a few years later, he joined ITV’s Lorraine as an on-air entertainment reporter. Mixing an ear for gossip with a contacts list that covered the great and good of the new millennium’s social scene, Wootton was swiftly identified as a rising star of tattling reportage.

During this period he also took on a column at The Sun, continuing his association with Rupert Murdoch’s News UK and giving him a soapbox for an increasingly gossipy, and conservative, worldview.

In the same year that he joined The Sun, Wootton publicly came out as gay. “I am gay and I believe in equality in every way,” he tweeted. “If the media hides gay relationships then how will they ever be normalised?”

Why has he been suspended?

During an interview on Wootton’s show this week, Fox said: “We’re past the watershed so I can say this… show me a single, self-respecting man that would like to climb into bed with that woman… ever… ever.

“That little woman has been fed... spoon-fed oppression day after day after day, starting with the lie about the gender pay gap.

“She’s sat there, and I’m going like, if I met you at a bar and that was like sentence three, chances of me just walking away are just huge.

“We need powerful, strong, amazing women who make great points for themselves. We don’t need these feminist 4.0. They’re pathetic and embarrassing.

“Who’d want to shag that?”

Smiling, Wootton made a belated attempt to defend Ms Evans. He said: “I’m just going to provide a touch of balance from her because she did actually respond to this earlier today, saying that she regretted her comments, but she didn’t apologise. Uh, yes. So there you go. And she’s a very beautiful woman Laurence, very beautiful.”

Ava Evans says getting Dan Wootton and Laurence Fox suspended from GB News wasn't 'a goal' (TalkTV)

What is Wootton accused of?

The GB News suspension comes as Wootton has faced separate accusations of potential criminal behaviour by allegedly using a pseudonym and offering newspaper colleagues money for sexual material.

He was suspended by MailOnline while the claims were investigated and now the column he has been writing since 2021 has been terminated following the Fox interview row.

Last week, GB News chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos said the channel was continuing to “monitor” the allegations regarding sexual material. There is no current police investigation, the Met Police said last month.

The GB News presenter claims to be the victim of a “witch hunt” after being accused of using fake online identities to trick men into sending him explicit images for tens of thousands of pounds.

Wootton has denied any criminal wrongdoing, although he has admitted to “errors of judgment in the past”.

Byline Times published a number of detailed and serious allegations against Mr Wootton, claiming that it had evidence he had pretended to be a man named Martin Branning.

Laurence Fox (above, right) made sexist comments about Ava Evans as he appeared on a GB News show hosted by Dan Wootton (main) (GB News)

What has Wootton said?

Speaking on his programme on GB News later that night after the Martin Branning scandal broke Mr Wootton said: “These past few days I have been the target of a smear campaign by nefarious players with an axe to grind.”

He added: “I, like all fallible human beings, have made errors of judgement in the past. But the criminal allegations being made against me are simply untrue.

“I would like nothing more than to address those spurious claims – I could actually spend the next two hours doing so – but on the advice of my lawyers, I cannot comment further.

“But I have been thinking much over the past few days about the current state of social media, where any allegation can be made in an attempt to get someone cancelled, but it is impossible to defend yourself against thousands of trolls.”

Before his suspension for the Fox furore, he posted on X: “I want to reiterate my regret over last night’s exchange with Laurence on GB News.

“Having looked at the footage, I can see how inappropriate my reaction to his totally unacceptable remarks appears to be and want to be clear that I was in no way amused by the comments.

“I reacted as I did out of shock and surprise in an off guard moment while working out how to respond as he continued to speak by searching for tweets @AvaSantina had sent earlier in the day while having them read out in my ear at the same time.

“However, I should have intervened immediately to challenge offensive and misogynistic remarks. I apologise unreservedly for what was a very unfortunate lapse in judgement on my part under the intense pressure of a bizarre exchange. I know I should have done better.

“I’m devastated that I let down the team and our supportive GBN family. We seek to tackle the issue and not the person, which I intend to stress again on air tonight.”

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