BBC dismisses complaints over Brendan O'Neill encouragement of Brexit riots

PUBLISHED: 15:27 14 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:36 14 October 2019

Brendan O'Neill says there 'should be riots' while on Politics Live. Photograph: BBC.

Brendan O'Neill says there 'should be riots' while on Politics Live. Photograph: BBC.

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The BBC has dismissed nearly 600 complaints about Brendan O'Neill's comments about riots during a Politics Live broadcast.

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Brendan O'Neill appears on Politics Live. Photograph: BBC.Brendan O'Neill appears on Politics Live. Photograph: BBC.

O'Neill was criticised for the remarks on and off-air at the end of September when he said that ordinary people should take action for politicians failing to deliver the UK's departure from the European Union.

To astonishment from his fellow panellists, the Spiked writer said: "I am amazed that there hasn't been riots yet."

Asked by presenter Adam Fleming if he thinks there will be, he said: "I think there should be."

"You think there should be?" clarified Fleming.

"Yes" responded O'Neill, as Observer columnist Sonia Sodha told him he was "inciting violence!".

He continued: "When I look at the gilets jaunes, who have taken to the streets because Macron messed them around over the eco-tax and various other things, what I continually think is why have the British people been so patient?"

The comments sparked 585 complaints, with users of social media criticising the BBC for allowing the guest to appear.

"He is inciting people to violence on national television," wrote Charlie Proctor.

"A pretty clear incitement. The agenda of the far right fascists is becoming increasingly clear: whip up hate, 'angry white man strategy', threaten and encourage violence," said Mo Ansar.

MORE: Backlash as BBC announces Julia Hartley-Brewer on Question Time panel

"How is it possible, that someone is allowed to call for riots on national TV - surely, this is incitement?" tweeted another mentioning OFCOM and the Met Police.

The BBC, however, has since dismissed the complaints and ruled the intervention from presenter Adam Fleming was sufficient.

"This statement was immediately picked up on and pushed back by Adam Fleming and other guests.

"It was for Mr O'Neill to defend his position and we cannot know what a guest is going to say in advance. These were not views Brendan O'Neill had previously expressed and we had no prior knowledge of them.

"When a guest on live television makes a controversial statement of this sort, all the presenter can do is push back on air and allow other guests to challenge the comment which is exactly what Adam Fleming did."

The words echoed Rob Burley, editor of Politics Live, shortly after the programme finished.

Burley claimed O'Neill "appeared to backtrack on his comments" during the broadcast.

It follows a furore over Naga Munchetty's comments about Donald Trump's racist tweets - one complaint that the broadcaster initially upheld.

After widespread condemnation of the broadcaster the director general announced he was reversing the decision, with watchdog OFCOM now investigating the process involved.

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