BBC presenter Jon Sopel blames John Humphrys for ‘nuts’ off-air conversation about gender pay gap, saying he tried to shut it down but was ‘in the court of King John’
- Jon Sopel admitted he ‘hated’ being in the spotlight after recording was leaked
- Two journalists were discussing former China editor Carrie Gracie’s resignation
- She quit because she claimed men were paid more than women for the same job
- Now Sopel said he was ‘incredibly uncomfortable’ about chat with ‘King John’
BBC journalist Jon Sopel has spoken about a leaked recording of a conversation he had with John Humphrys in which the duo appeared to joke about gender earnings disputes.
The broadcaster’s North America editor has admitted he ‘hated’ being in the spotlight after the remarks about former China editor Carrie Gracie – who had resigned in protest at her £135,000 salary – were made public.
Ms Gracie quit the role because she claimed men were earning more than women for the same job – and she called on her male colleagues to take pay cuts so females could earn more.
BBC journalist Jon Sopel (left) has spoken about a leaked recording of a conversation he had with John Humphrys (right) where the duo appeared to joke about the gender earnings gap
During the off-air exchange, Mr Humphrys said: ‘The first question will be how much of your salary you are prepared to hand over to Carrie Gracie to keep her?’
Mr Sopel replied: ‘Obviously if we are talking about the scope for the greatest redistribution, I’ll have to come back and say, “Well, yes, Mr Humphrys. But…”.’
Now, in an interview with The Guardian, the veteran hack – who earns between £230,000 and £239,000 – has said the results of the leak were ‘obviously incredibly uncomfortable’.
‘The conversation with John Humphrys was nuts,’ he said. ‘John is a big figure. I’m quite a senior journalist, but [when you’re with him], you are in the court of King John.
Journalist Carrie Gracie gives evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in Portcullis House, London, on pay at the BBC, in January
‘If you listen, you can hear that I’m trying to shut it down. I’m thinking: Stop it, stop it. I was in Washington at 11.30 at night, about to go to bed, and suddenly I was thrown a curve ball.’
He said he found the aftermath ‘ghastly on a personal level,’ adding: ‘I was quietly minding my own business – I had no idea what other people earned – and then suddenly I was in the spotlight. I hated it.
‘So far as Carrie went, I thought: Her fight is with the BBC, not me; I’ll leave her to fight it, which she did effectively.’
The offending off-air exchange
John Humphrys: The first question will be how much of your salary you are prepared to hand over to Carrie Gracie to keep her. And comments about your other colleagues, like our Middle East editor and the other men who are earning too much.
Jon Sopel: Obviously if we are talking about the scope for the greatest redistribution, I’ll have to come back and say, ‘Well yes Mr Humphrys, but. . .’
John Humphrys: And I could save you the trouble as I could volunteer that I’ve handed over already more than you f***ing earn. But I’m still left with more than anybody else, and that seems to me entirely just. Something like that.
Jon Sopel: Don’t.
John Humphrys: Oh dear God she’s actually suggested you should lose money. You know that don’t you?
Jon Sopel: Yeah I have, yeah.
John Humphrys: The idea is I’m not allowed to talk to her about it throughout the whole course of the programme. Not a word.
Jon Sopel: Can we have this conversation somewhere else?