Susanna Reid And Ed Balls Defend Fiona Bruce Over 'Outrageous' Question Time Row

"I think it’s outrageous that she is being held personally accountable," Susanna said.
Ed Balls, Fiona Bruce and Susanna Reid
Ed Balls, Fiona Bruce and Susanna Reid
Shutterstock/ITV/Ken McKay/BBC

Susanna Reid and Ed Balls have passionately defended Fiona Bruce over a row surrounding comments made on last week’s Question Time.

The BBC presenter has faced what she has described as “a social media storm” after some people accused her of trivialising domestic violence during a discussion about Boris Johnson’s father Stanley Johnson.

Panellist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown said Stanley Johnson’s alleged history of violence was “on record” and he was a “wife beater”, to which Fiona interjected, saying: “I’m not disputing what you’re saying, but just so everyone knows what this is referring to, Stanley Johnson’s wife spoke to a journalist, Tom Bower, and she said that Stanley Johnson had broken her nose and that she’d ended up in hospital as a result.

“Stanley Johnson has not commented publicly on that. Friends of his have said it did happen but it was a one-off.”

Despite Fiona later saying that she was “required to legally contextualise” a response about Mr Johnson and the words are not an expression of her own opinions, on Monday, it was announced she would be stepping back from her role as an ambassador of domestic abuse charity Refuge in the wake of the backlash.

Fiona Bruce on the Question Time panel
Fiona Bruce on the Question Time panel

Speaking about the story on Tuesday’s edition of Good Morning Britain, presenters Susanna and Ed Balls described the row as “outrageous”.

Susanna said: “Yasmin, as you saw in that clip, then pointed out the allegation that was made about Stanley Johnson. It was incumbent on Fiona Bruce, as the host of that panel, to – as she says – contextualise it.”

Ed continued: “I’ve actually seen this in the last year, which I’ve never experienced before, when you do that, which is put the other side, which is our responsibility when we’re doing the roles we’re playing, you get these pile-ons on social media where people assume that if we say that, that’s what we believe.

“That’s what happened to Fiona Bruce. She wasn’t saying that she believed that, she was saying that’s what the other side said.”

Susanna added: “She very clearly says in that clip that she is contextualising it and giving the right of reply. She wasn’t arguing with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. I think it’s outrageous that she is being held personally accountable.”

In a statement announcing she was standing down from her Refuge role, Fiona said there had been a “mischaracterisation” on social media of what was said.

“I know survivors of domestic abuse have been distressed by what I was required to say on-air. For that, I am deeply sorry,” she explained.

“I cannot change what I was required to say, but I can apologise for the very real impact that I can see it has had.

“I have been a passionate advocate and campaigner for all survivors of domestic abuse, and have used my privileged position as a woman in the public eye to bring this issue to the fore, notably in my work for over 25 years with Refuge.

“But following the events of last week, I have faced a social media storm, much of which mischaracterised what I said and took the form of personal abuse directed at me.

“The only people that matter in all this are the survivors, they are my priority.”

The BBC previously defended Fiona in a statement issued on Friday, which said: “Domestic abuse is abhorrent, and we would never wish to suggest otherwise.

“When serious allegations are made on air against people or organisations, it is the job of BBC presenters to ensure that the context of those allegations – and any right of reply from the person or organisation – is given to the audience, and this is what Fiona Bruce was doing last night.

“She was not expressing any personal opinion about the situation.”

Good Morning Britain airs weekdays at 6am on ITV1.


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