ITV reporter Ranvir Singh was today criticised for backing her colleague Alastair Stewart after he was forced out of ITN over claims of racism.
Mrs Singh, 42, who was raised in a Sikh family in Preston, stood up for the veteran presenter after a black Twitter user complained he called him an ‘angry ape’.
She told ITV’s Good Morning Britain today that Mr Stewart was not racist and also said how she often calls her son Tushaan a ‘monkey’ but is not being racist to him.
But Twitter users criticised Mrs Singh for her views as a ‘woman of colour’ and suggested she had put her friendship with Mr Stewart over the issue of racism.
One said: ‘You have chosen to put friendship over what in reality is an existing issue in the media. As a woman of colour you should know the position of the other gentleman and how those may be perceived. The context there.’
But Mrs Singh responded: ‘This was about a specific person and I spoke about my specific experience of the man. I don’t appreciate being told what you think I ‘should know’ but you’re entitled to your view. Thank you.’
Mrs Singh, who joined ITV in 2012 and is the political editor of GMB, said she had spoken to Mr Stewart in text messages last night and he told her he was ‘OK’.
She said today: ‘I would never use the word racist and his name in the same sentence. I have sat with him for hours and hours and hours, days and days and days, years, and he has only ever been gracious and encouraging to me.
‘We have had talks about how he and his wife have felt proud of what I have achieved and how Alastair Stewart has talked about other black talents in the newsroom and wider and why companies don’t give them more work and how he sees black talent in other places and he wants them to have more work and he would know in his position that that might mean that he might get less work.’
Mrs Singh posted this photograph of her with friend and colleague Alastair Stewart last night
Mrs Singh added: ‘I can only tell you from my own experience that he is a gentleman and he has done nothing other than totally encourage me. It saddens me.’
Mrs Singh said she she often calls her son Tushaan (pictured together in London last July) a ‘monkey’ but is not being racist to him
Mr Stewart said he was quitting after ‘a misjudgement which I regret’ on social media. He told friends he was ‘very sad it was ending this way’ after 40 years in the job.
Mr Stewart and Martin Shapland, who is black, were debating the Royal Family’s finances online when the news anchor cited a passage from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure that included the phrase ‘angry ape’.
Mr Stewart wrote: ‘But man, proud man, Dress’d in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d – His glassy essence – like an angry ape, Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven, As makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens, Would all themselves laugh mortal.’
Describing Mr Stewart as a disgrace, Mr Shapland shared the tweet and said: ‘Just an ITV newsreader referring to me as an ape.’
Speaking about what Mr Stewart said, Mrs Singh added: ‘Do you go back and unpick the whole of literature? My God, it wasn’t a quote from Enoch Powell, there are things that you know – ‘no, don’t do that’.
Mrs Singh tweeted about Mr Stewart last night, saying she has ‘adored’ working with him
‘I did English literature, I don’t know it inside out, I suppose people are Googling Measure for Measure this morning to figure out exactly what this quote means, as far as I understand, was Shakespeare being racist when he wrote ‘angry ape’ or was he just saying in an Elizabethan era?’
Asked if she could see why it was offensive, she added: ‘It’s hard to stand in someone’s shoes. I think that if you are angry with somebody and you’re having a spat, I don’t know what the thread said, I don’t think any of us really know what that thread was actually about, we just have seen that one exchange.
‘Is it OK to see things perhaps in that person’s view perhaps he felt that but all I can say that that quote from Shakespeare in an Elizabethan era I think was probably meant about primitive behaviour – it wasn’t about the colour.’
She added: ‘I call my son a monkey all the time, come on you little monkey, get into bed. I’m not being racist to my son when I call him a monkey, right, but of course that’s just my experience.
Twitter users criticised Mrs Singh for her views as a ‘woman of colour’ and suggested she had put her friendship with Mr Stewart over the issue of racism
‘I find it really unsettling to talk about this because he is my friend, Alastair is, and I feel sorry for him and I wish this hadn’t happened but also I don’t know who this guy is on Twitter and I don’t know what his issue was with that and I feel sorry for Alastair and that’s all I can really say and I just feel that, can you go back and unpick the whole of literature?’
Asked by Susanna Reid what the response to her posting a picture of her with Mr Stewart last night, she said: ‘I don’t always read everything on social media if I’m perfectly honest and perhaps the lesson is, or perhaps the learning, is I don’t engage with members of the public in a confrontational way ever.
‘I don’t do it and I really don’t tweet about race, I don’t tweet about very much, I’m a bit rubbish on social media, and maybe that’s a good thing, but I just think Alastair has engaged in taking people on who take him on in that arena and perhaps the learning is, I don’t know what Alastair meant when he said it was a ‘misjudgement’ that he regrets – does he regret quoting that bit or does he regret just being drawn into a spat with a member of the public and actually I think perhaps I’ll need to speak to him and find out what he meant by that.’
Martin Shapland (pictured) was in a debate with Mr Stewart on Twitter when the veteran newsreader quoted a passage from Shakespeare that included the words ‘angry ape’
She added: ‘He loves words, I have sat there – when he is trying to write the headlines, he pores over every word, he’s very careful, he understands the emphasis, and I think perhaps he might be thinking ‘gosh, maybe I should have re-read that quote and thought about it twice’.
The Shakespeare quote at the heart of Alastair Stewart’s social media rift
In a Twitter row Mr Stewart decided to quote a short passage from Measure by Measure by William Shakeaspeare.
The play was written in either 1603 or 1604 and is a dark comedy about a judge, Angelo, who leads the government in Vienna while the Duke is away.
The specific part Mr Stewart tweeted is a short speech by a character called Isabella, who has come to plead with Angelo for her brother’s life after he is sentenced to die.
Angelo refuses her request, and in response to him she says: ‘But man, proud man,
‘Dress’d in a little brief authority,
‘Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d—
‘His glassy essence—like an angry ape
‘Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
‘As makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
‘Would all themselves laugh mortal’
‘But I absolutely say in my gut I would absolutely tell you that I would put my house on it that not for one second did he write that quote thinking that it was in any way a slur on someone’s skin colour.’
Other colleagues also leapt to Mr Stewart’s defence, saying the broadcasting ‘legend’ had been ‘shunted out’. One insisted last night: ‘Alastair is not a racist.’
ITN said Mr Stewart was stepping down following ‘errors of judgement in Alastair’s use of social media which breached ITN’s editorial guidelines’.
It refused to give more details but several sources said it related to a Twitter spat on January 13.
In a statement, the presenter said: ‘It was a misjudgement which I regret, but it’s been a privilege to bring the news to households throughout the UK for the past 40 years.’
In 2018 Mr Stewart used the same quote in an exchange with another Twitter user who was not identifiably black.
Supporters said he appeared to have a habit of using the phrase to make a point about those he felt were claiming to be experts in a certain field.
An ITN insider said: ‘He would have thought he was being clever and it was merely an innocent put-down. He is certainly not a racist in any way.
‘Alastair is a hugely popular figure, well liked, kind and something of an institution.
Mr Stewart’s decision to step down comes after black Twitter user Martin Shapland claimed he ‘called him an angry ape’ three weeks ago. Mr Shapland later branded Mr Stewart a ‘disgrace’
‘It is sad if he has had to go because of this. He accepts the error of judgement, but many believe that, if this was the reason he is going, it was wrong, and he will be the first man ever fired for accurately quoting Shakespeare.’
Alastair Stewart: News veteran with 40 years in front of the camera
Broadcasting giant Alastair Stewart’s decision to step down from presenting duties comes after a 40-year career in front of the camera.
Mr Stewart, 67, was born on June 22 1952 in Gosport, Hampshire, to parents who both served in the Royal Air Force.
He attended the state Madras College in Fife, Scotland, before moving to the independent Salesian College in Hampshire, then St Augustine’s Abbey School in Ramsgate, Kent.
Mr Stewart studied economics and politics at University of Bristol before going on to work for the National Union Of Students between 1974 and 1976.
His first steps into television came when he joined Southern Television in Southampton as a reporter and presenter.
Mr Stewart was one of the last to interview Lord Louis Mountbatten before he was murdered by the IRA in 1979.
He joined ITN in 1980 as industrial correspondent – and the broadcaster would become his professional home.
Soon after he was invited to join the roster of additional newsreaders and, from 1983 to 1986, he was a presenter and reporter with ITN’s Channel 4 News.
In 1989 he moved to ITV’s News At Ten where he became the lead presenter on the flagship show’s major news bulletins.
Until his departure from the broadcaster Mr Stewart’s portfolio of work saw him move between the lunchtime, evening and 10pm shows while presenting special programmes.
He married Sally Ann Jung in 1978 and has four children.
Mr Stewart famously kept his cool in August 2017 as a toddler took over his live news broadcast.
He was conducting a segment about milk allergies on the ITV Lunchtime News with a mother and her young son and daughter, when the little girl got up and ran around the desk.
She then climbed up on the desk in front of Mr Stewart, often creeping into his shot, for the remainder of the piece.
As the toddler got up to run around, Stewart said that she ‘will do whatever she chooses to do for the next couple of minutes’, before continuing with the interview.
Having stifled laughter while continuing the broadcast, the veteran newscaster joked at the end of the segment: ‘Mary Nightingale, I think, will have a more peaceful time at 6.30.
‘From all of us, a very good afternoon to you.’
A fan of rock music, Mr Stewart won Celebrity Mastermind in December 2009 with The Rolling Stones as his specialist subject.
He briefly appeared in the West End in a 2015 production An Evening With Lucian Freud by Laura-Jane Foley.
He played a hapless interviewer appearing on video alongside Cressida Bonas, Russell Grant and Maureen Lipman.
Mr Stewart presented ITV News’ coverage of the European Union referendum in 2016.
Mr Stewart, who is married with four children, was the nation’s longest-serving male newsreader.
He started on Southern Television in 1976 and joined ITN in 1980. An OBE came in 2006 for services to broadcasting.
Amid an outpouring of support last night, fellow ITV News presenter Mary Nightingale tweeted: ‘Very sad about the departure of Alastair Stewart. He was a good friend and mentor.’
News anchor Julie Etchingham tweeted: ‘So sad to learn this – we have worked on many big stories together & Al is a trusted friend and guide to many of us.’
Former ITV News boss Richard Frediani called him ‘a loyal friend, colleague, mentor, guide and much more to many, many journalists’, adding: ‘Simply the best on and off screen. A broadcasting legend.’
A source at ITN, which produces news programmes for ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, said the newsroom was in shock, but that there was a ‘mixed view’, with some younger staff agreeing with the decision to remove him.
More senior staff shared their theory that it was an excuse to get rid of the veteran, who was on a six-figure salary.
One insider said: ‘Officially he quit, but it was a fait accompli – a case of ‘resign, and do the honourable thing’.’
Mr Shapland, whose Twitter account includes the description ‘tweet in haste, repent at leisure’, could not be reached for comment.
In later tweets in his spat with Mr Stewart he described the presenter’s behaviour as ‘ignorant bullying’ and suggested he should take lessons in etiquette.
According to his LinkedIn page, Mr Shapland obtained a degree in modern history and political sciences from Birmingham University and has been a policy manager at the Institution of Civil Engineers for the past two years.
He was previously a House of Commons researcher.
Asked about the Twitter row between Mr Stewart and its employee, a spokesman for the ICE said: ‘It is a private matter.’
Michael Jermey, director of news and current affairs at ITV, said: ‘Alastair has been a long-standing, familiar figure to viewers of ITV News, both reporting and presenting with distinction. We wish him the very best for the future.’
ITN chief executive Anna Mallett added: ‘We would like to recognise Alastair’s contribution as one of the UK’s foremost journalists and TV presenters and to thank him for his commitment to delivering high-quality broadcast news over many years.’
Last night the door to Mr Stewart’s home in Hampshire was answered by a young man who said: ‘Yeah he is not going to be saying anything tonight.’
In his long career, Mr Stewart has fronted everything from election coverage to Police, Camera, Action! – a job he lost after crashing his Mercedes into a hedge while three times the drink-drive limit.
Support for Mr Stewart also came from broadcaster Danny Baker, who was sacked last year from BBC Radio 5 Live for likening Prince Harry’s son Archie to a chimp.
Baker retweeted a comment by comedian Rory Bremner who praised Mr Stewart as ‘a good friend’ and called him ‘generous, supportive and kind – one of life’s enthusiasts.