BBC NI reporter Andy West
YouTube / BBC
A BBC Northern Ireland reporter has been “threatened with suspension” and is facing disciplinary procedures after criticising the BBC’s decision to keep Tyson Fury on the shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, BuzzFeed News can reveal.
Andy West, a news presenter, wrote on his Facebook page that he was “ashamed to work for the BBC” and accused the broadcaster of “hurting me and other gay people by celebrating someone who considers me no better than a paedophile,” following controversial remarks made by the boxer.
The status update has since been taken down but a BBC source told BuzzFeed News that as a result of the comments West was “reprimanded by a manager, told an investigation would be launched into his conduct and warned he could be suspended”.
Fury sparked widespread condemnation following an interview with the Mail on Sunday in which he said: “There are only three things that need to be accomplished before the devil comes home: one of them is homosexuality being legal in countries, one of them is abortion and the other one’s paedophilia. Who would have thought in the ’50s and ’60s that those first two would be legalised?”
An online petition was launched in the wake of the interview – and further controversial remarks made by the world heavy weight champion – calling on the BBC to remove him from the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist. It has so far attracted more then 115,000 signatures. West also signed the petition in conjunction with his Facebook status. The full text of which, passed to BuzzFeed News in screen shots, reads:
“My employer is hurting me and other gay people by celebrating someone who considers me no better than a paedophile and who believes homosexual people are helping to bring about the end of the world.
Facebook / Andy West
“It is tempting to see him for the laughable idiot he is but sadly there are many other idiots who will be inspired and encouraged by his naive, juvenile bigotry. I am ashamed to work for the BBC when it lacks the bravery to admit it is making a mistake.”
In a further comment underneath the status, West, who previously enjoyed a distinguished career as a producer on BBC Radio 2, added: “I criticise the BBC for offering him as an idol to be celebrated and admired not just for his sporting achievements but also his ‘personality’.”
A friend of West’s told BuzzFeed News: “Andy loves the BBC but is so sad to see it giving a pedestal to someone who seems to be causing injury to people like him, who want to live their lives as the people they are. He just wants to stand up for gay people, particularly in Northern Ireland but also elsewhere who are still facing prejudice.”
The friend added: “Andy doesn’t think Tyson Fury should be stopped from having his own beliefs. He just thinks the BBC is wrong to be condoning the nomination of someone like Fury who people, especially children, are supposed to look up to. It’s so horrible for him to be caught between a job he loves and his principles. He doesn’t want to lose his career. He just has to be honest about what he believes.”
In an email sent from West to Tony Hall, the BBC Director General, that has also been leaked to BuzzFeed News, West writes: “I appeal to you as an equal opportunities employer and proud bastion of fair-thinking to consider whether it is approprate to celebrate someone who has stated that gay people are sign of a coming Armageddon and equates homosexuals to paedophiles.”
The email continues: “Can it be that my own employer is happy to suggest that this individual is an example for us to follow?”
When asked to comment by BuzzFeed News, a BBC spokesperson said, “We do not routinely comment on individual staff matters.”