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BBC's Michael Buerk Apologises After Ched Evans Rape Comments Lead To Ironic Moral Outrage

23/10/2014 13:00 BST | Updated 23/10/2014 18:59 BST

BBC radio host Michael Buerk has said he was "clumsy" to criticise the woman raped by footballer Ched Evans for being drunk - on a programme which ironically discusses the moral issues behind news stories.

The long-serving journalist and presenter caused outrage in a trailer for Radio 4 discussion show Moral Maze when he suggested the woman attacked by the former Sheffield United footballer emerged from the crime without "any credit" because she was so intoxicated "she could barely stand".

The corporation was forced to apologise after women's rights campaigners hit out at the comments.

michael buerk

Michael Buerk presents Moral Maze

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live today, Buerk said: "If I gave the impression that the two issues of her being drunk and the rape for which Ched Evans was convicted were some sort of moral equivalent, that would be terrible and something I would need to apologise for. It was not my intention."

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Welsh striker Evans was released from prison on Friday, having served half of a five-year sentence for raping a woman in a hotel room. Another defendant, Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald, was cleared.

Evans, 25, released a video message yesterday in which he pleaded for a chance to play professionally again, saying he regretted his decision to cheat on girlfriend Natasha Massey - but he maintained that the sex was consensual and he was determined to clear his name.

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Evans was convicted of raping the women at a hotel

In an interview with Peter Allen on 5 Live, Buerk denied he was equating rape and being drunk in the radio show, which debated the rehabilitation of criminals.

He said: "If people took from it the impression that I was blaming the victim for the rape, that was absolutely not my intention.

"Having said that, the fact that the victim was drunk was the central issue in the court case. In fact, it was her case that she was so drunk she was incapable of giving consent.

"I'm not sure we're in the position where subsequently we shouldn't mention that, or perhaps I was clumsy.

"What I was trying to get across was that this case is packed full of very difficult and complex issues and I was not intending to conflate it."

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Natasha Massey, Evans's girlfriend

Buerk said he was "totally responsible" for the content of the short trailer, which he wrote himself before it was broadcast during Radio 4's Today programme yesterday.

He said: "I'm trying in a very short period of time to give some of the elements of the case that made it complex and made it difficult and that in a way reflected on the kind of society we are and the issues we have to deal with.

"It was not my intention (to compare Evans's crime with the victim's drunken state), I was attempting to give some of the complexities of the case."

Buerk was the latest high-profile figure to be caught up in the Evans row, after TV presenter Judy Finnigan sparked controversy last week during a panel discussion on ITV's Loose Women by claiming the Welsh international striker's crime was "non violent" and did not cause "bodily harm".

Her comments caused a wave of criticism, abuse on social media and also sparked threats against her daughter, fitness instructor Chloe, wishing rape on her.

Evans is currently without a club, but said yesterday he could prove himself to be "a positive influence, not just on the pitch but also in the community".

Sheffield United have dismissed reports that the club has offered him a new contract.