Richard Madeley Defends Gary Lineker’s Right To Free Speech But Brands Nazi Comment ‘Stupid’

The Good Morning Britain host weighed in on “preposterous” calls to sack or silence the BBC sports presenter during an appearance on Question Time.
Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker outside his home in London following reports that the BBC is to have a "frank conversation" with the ex-England striker.
Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker outside his home in London following reports that the BBC is to have a "frank conversation" with the ex-England striker.
James Manning - PA Images via Getty Images

Richard Madeley has weighed in on the ongoing row over Gary Lineker’s comments about the government’s controversial immigration crackdown plans.

The Match of the Day presenter divided opinion earlier this week when he compared the language used by home secretary Suella Braverman to Nazi Germany.

During an appearance on BBC Question Time on Thursday, Madeley said calls to “muzz and muffle” Lineker were “preposterous”.

Lineker, who has 8.6 million Twitter followers, commented on a video on the social media site put out by Braverman, in which she unveiled government plans to stop migrant boats crossing the Channel.

He tweeted: “Good heavens, this is beyond awful.”

The former England striker then replied to one Twitter user who had told him it was “easy to pontificate when it doesn’t affect you”.

Lineker wrote back: “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?”

Gary Lineker Twitter
Gary Lineker Twitter
Gary Lineker Twitter

The comments have been at the centre of a national debate this week, with Lineker later describing the backlash as a “ridiculously out of proportion story”.

He later insisted he doesn’t fear suspension from the BBC.

Appearing on Question Time alongside immigration minister Robert Jenrick, presenter Fiona Bruce asked Madeley if Lineker should be “given the red card” by the BBC.

The Good Morning Britain presenter responded with a firm “no”, adding: “Clearly if he was a political journalist, political presenter or interview in any of the areas of the BBC that we’re talking about, like Newsnight, then clearly he shouldn’t have made those comments.

“Those comments would be a dereliction of duty and deeply compromising to his programme, to himself, future interviews and of course to the BBC which is publicly funded by us.

“But he’s a sports presenter; he talks about football and games and tactics, and headers and corners and referees and league tables and all the rest of it.

“And quite how having [not having the right to have] the freedom of speech on – not even on any of his programmes – but on his Twitter page, to say anything he likes within the law, escapes me.”

Richard Madeley appeared on Question Time
Richard Madeley appeared on Question Time

The broadcaster added: “It’s ridiculous to suggest that he should be sacked.”

However, Madeley went on to label Lineker’s comment about comparing the language used by home secretary Suella Braverman to Nazi Germany as “stupid”.

“It’s an insult to the minorities and the Jewish nation who were subject to acts of genocide by the then-German dictatorship,” Madeley said.

As well as facing criticism from members of the Tory party, it was later reported that he would be spoken to about his comments by his BBC bosses.

BBC director-general Tim Davie warned staff about their use of social media when he took on the role at the end of 2020, and guidelines around social media use have since been updated.

Staff members at the corporation were told they needed to follow editorial guidelines and editorial oversight in the same way as when doing official BBC content.

However, Lineker is a freelance broadcaster for the BBC, not a permanent member of staff, and is not responsible for news or political content, so is not required to adhere to the same rules on impartiality.

Earlier this week, Lineker was criticised by the home secretary, while a spokesperson for Rishi Sunak said: “It’s obviously disappointing to see someone whose salary is funded by hard-working British (licence-fee) payers using that kind of rhetoric and seemingly dismissing their legitimate concerns that they have about small boats crossings and illegal migration.”

Lineker was defended by Labour leader Keir Starmer, however, whose representative said: “I think there is a general observation that I’d make, which is I think comparisons with Germany in the 1930s aren’t always the best way to make one’s argument.

“On the specifics of Gary Lineker speaking out, everybody will know that he has been a passionate advocate on behalf of refugees and refugee rights, including taking refugees into his own home.

“So, I don’t think it will come as a surprise that he has strong views on this subject.”

Lineker previously insisted he would “continue to speak up” on the subject.

He also called out “freedom of speech champions” who were “demanding silence from those with whom they disagree”.

BBC Question Time airs on BBC One and iPlayer every Thursday at 10.45pm.


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