Sky News presenter Adam Boulton has refused to apologise after comparing a climate change protestor to a “right wing fascist” and branding him “incompetent” and “self-indulgent”.
Campaign co-ordinator for Extinction Rebellion, Robin Boardman, walked out on the interview on Sky News on Wednesday, telling Boulton “I won’t stand for anything else”.
It came as the eco-pressure group launched their third day of climate change protests in London, targeting the capital’s Tube system and roads.
Boulton began the interview by asking Boardman “what’s the point?” of the protests and accused the group of being “middle class” people “who want to tell us how to live our lives”.
Almost 300 activists have been arrested as part of the protests, which are aimed at pressuring the government to declare a climate change national emergency.
Boardman said the disruption was aimed at raising awareness of the group’s “three reasonable demands”, which include the UK being carbon neutral by 2025 and a citizens’ assembly.
Boulton answered: “I’m talking to you and you sound to me like a right-wing fascist. You sound like someone who wants to dictate to people how they live their lives.”
Here is how the rest of the exchange played out:
Boulton: “You want an alternative democratic system. You’re not giving people a choice about having their lives disrupted.
“You’re not giving people a choice about what they think because you know that it’s right. There’s absolutely no democracy in this at all.”
Boardman: “Would you give an alcoholic a drink if you knew it was going to kill them?”
Boulton: “I don’t think the great British public are alcoholics and I think that is an offensive analogy.”
Boardman: “I’m saying that people are going to die and if we do not disrupt that possibility then we are failing as a species. We’re failing people.
“I care so deeply, so deeply about the people in this world and all the life on it and I will not see it die. I will not see it go this way.”
Boulton: “So, half term week, when parliament isn’t even here, you come here and you cause disruption in Westminster. You’re not even get your message across.
“You’re a load of incompetent, middle class, self-indulgent people who want to tell us how to live our lives. That’s what you are, isn’t it?”
Boardman: “Millions of people are going to starve, starting with those in Africa. We are seeing the effects it is having right now.
“We face another hot summer this summer, another il nino effect. We are going to see the effects right here in the UK.
“People are not going to be able to put food on their plates, and I won’t stand for that.
“And I won’t stand for people who won’t stand up for what it means to live on this planet. And I won’t stand for anything else.”
It was at this point that Boardman got up and left the studio, to which Boulton replied: “Jolly good. OK.”
The interview has strongly divided opinion on Twitter.
Boulton later defended his conduct with his own tweet, saying the group should be held accountable for the disruption.
Extinction Rebellion issued a comment after the interview, which reads: “We have a democratic right to protest and a duty to rebel when the Government is not protecting the lives of its people.
“This is an emergency, and we can no longer continue business as usual. That extends to interrogative, combative and belligerent journalism belittling the most serious issue facing the world today.
“When faced with an emergency, we need to take emergency action. We would ask Adam, what is the role of journalism in this time?”