Guto Harri quits GB News after channel suspends him for taking the knee live on air

Exclusive: Presenter says he sees ‘no option now but to resign’

Lamiat Sabin
Sunday 18 July 2021 22:01
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Presenter takes the knee on live TV in support of England football team

A presenter has resigned from GB News after he was disciplined for taking the knee on air against racism.

GB News had suspended Guto Harri for the whole summer after the right-wing channel’s viewers boycotted its programmes over his show of solidarity with black England football players.

The former BBC correspondent said that he had not believed in such gestures like taking the knee, but seeing England footballers being racially abused after the team’s defeat in the Euro 2020 final had led him to have a change of heart.

Mr Harri, who was an adviser to Boris Johnson when the prime minister was mayor of London, made the kneeling gesture on Tuesday’s show, two days after the match at Wembley Stadium.

In his resignation letter seen by The Independent, Mr Harri spells out to GB News chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos his reasons for quitting the current affairs channel, in operation for just over a month.

It says: “Before I took the knee on air I discussed it with my producer, director, co-presenters and head of newsroom.

“After I did it, GB News captured the moment and proactively cascaded it on social media.

“Two days later you told me you wanted me to take a break for the summer. You did not say you were briefing papers and issuing a statement that accused me of breaching your editorial standards.

“I asked you to change that on the night – pointing out it was defamatory. You ignored my texts and refused to take my calls.

“I now see that you’ve hired Nigel Farage who immediately declared in public that he will not be taking the knee.

“Please explain how that does not breach editorial standards but I did – so I can share it with my lawyers.”

Mr Harri also told Mr Frangopoulos that he sees “no option now but to resign”.

He has criticised his employer for claiming “to believe in free speech” and then punishing him for expressing his views.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Mr Harri accused the channel of “becoming an absurd parody of what it proclaims to be”.

He wrote: “Rather than defending free speech and confronting cancel culture, it has set out to replicate it on the far right.”

In a statement, GB News has said it “stands four square against racism” but that it was “unacceptable” for any presenter on its shows to take the knee, a gesture associated with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

It said that Mr Harri had broken the channel’s editorial code, which includes commitments to values including “respect for opinions and those expressing them”, and “the right of every individual to form and share their views”.

GB News then said: “We let both sides of the argument down by oversimplifying a very complex issue.”

The day after Mr Harri took the knee, the channel attracted no measurable audience between 1pm and 1.30pm.

On social media, viewers had vowed to stop watching the channel and accused it of having “gone woke”.

Nigel Farage has been hired by the channel in an attempt to boost its viewership

GB News has now drafted in former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage for a new primetime show in a bid to attract viewers.

Mr Farage left LBC radio in June 2020 after three years following controversy over his statements about the BLM movement.

He said protesters were like “a new form of the Taliban” for having taken to the streets as part of a global demonstration against a US police officer murdering George Floyd, a black man who was being arrested in Minneapolis.

Mr Farage described the people who tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol as a “violent mob”.

He also described BLM as ”a far-left Marxist organisation that wants to abolish the police and dismantle capitalism”.

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