Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker has told reporters outside his London home that he stands by his criticism of the government’s asylum seeker policy and does not fear suspension by the BBC.
The former England striker, 62, has faced criticism from members of the Conservative party after comparing the language used to launch the policy with 1930s Germany.
It has sparked a row over whether he has adhered to the BBC’s impartiality rules.
When approached by reporters this morning, Lineker said “yes I would like to say something, very good morning to you” as he walked to a waiting car.
As he passed round the back of the vehicle, he said “no” when asked if he fears suspension over his tweets.
Then as he climbed into the rear passenger seat, he responded to a reporter asking if he has spoken to the BBC, saying: “I’m always talking to the BBC.”
Asked if he had spoken to the director general, he said, after a pause, “yeah” before adding “he said… well we chat often”.
Before closing the door, he was asked if he regretted his tweet. He responded “no” and when asked if he stood by it he said “course”.
The retired footballer is a freelance broadcaster for the BBC, not a permanent member of staff, and is not responsible for news or political content so does not need to adhere to the same rules on impartiality as other employees.
He had shared a Twitter video put out by the home secretary in which she unveiled government plans to stop migrant boats crossing the Channel.
“Good heavens, this is beyond awful,” he wrote.
Lineker wrote in another tweet: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.
“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?”
Home Secretary Suella Braverman told ITV’s Good Morning Britain she was “very disappointed” by Lineker’s comments and branded them “irresponsible”.
Meanwhile, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said it is important for the BBC to maintain impartiality if it is to “retain the trust of the public who pay the licence fee”.
Ms Frazer added: “As somebody whose grandmother escaped Nazi Germany in the 1930s, I think it’s really disappointing and inappropriate to compare government policy on immigration to events in Germany in the 1930s.”
“The BBC is operationally independent and I’m pleased that the BBC will be speaking to Gary Lineker, to remind him of his responsibilities in relation to social media,” she added.
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Meanwhile, DUP MP Gregory Campbell has called for “lefty Lineker” to be paid around £1.3m less than he currently is.
Mr Campbell told the Commons: “Will she (culture secretary) meet again with the director general to ensure that the BBC reviews the contracts of well-known multimillionaire lefty (Gary) Lineker, who presents himself as a sports presenter with very scandalous views about government policy and decide whether he is a sports presenter or a political pundit and he should be paid about £1.3 million less than he currently is from the public purse?”
Meanwhile, TalkTV presenter Piers Morgan is among several media personalities who have come out in support of Lineker.
In relation to revelations BBC chairman Richard Sharp played in a role in securing an £800,000 loan for Boris Johnson, Labour MP Clive Efford asked in the Commons this morning: “Which is the greater evidence of political bias: Gary Lineker criticising the government’s language from his private Twitter account, or the chairman of the BBC giving donations to the Conservative Party?”
Former BBC director Roger Mosey has said his sympathies lie with Lineker but he feels impartiality is the best policy for the corporation’s presenters.
He told Times Radio on Thursday: “Personally, my sympathies are on Gary’s side of this argument and I don’t like that the Tory right are attacking Gary or wanting him sacked, I have a bit less sympathy with (that).”