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Man at centre of Alastair Stewart Twitter storm responds

The black Twitter user who accused Alastair Stewart of calling him an ‘angry ape’ today branded ITN’s decision to force him out ‘regrettable’ and said: ‘A private apology would have been more than sufficient to draw a line under this’.   

Britain’s longest-serving newsreader’s bosses have been accused of ‘hanging him out to dry’ in a ‘public shaming’ with his colleagues in open rebellion and signing a burgeoning petition demanding he gets his job back.

And now Martin Shapland, 34, the former Lib Dem researcher from east London at the centre of the race storm, has spoken out for the first time and said: ‘No one is perfect. We are all human. An apology and commitment to be more careful about language was all that I would have asked. It is regrettable that he has decided to stand down and I take no pleasure in that. He has evidently gone through and ITN and ITV process and I respect his choice’.

He added: ‘I consider the matter to be closed, accept Mr Stewart’s expression of regret and wish him the best for the future’ – but said cryptically there were several posts that offended him which have ‘now been deleted’ and claimed he has now had a ‘death threat’ after the newsreader stepped down.

ITV and BBC stars are rallying around the 67-year-old and Mary Nightingale was in tears on live TV last night as she told viewers he would not be seen again after 44 years on the station. Fellow ITN newsreader Julie Etchingham led tributes to ‘gentleman’ Mr Stewart.  

Good Morning Britain’s political editor Ranvir Singh, one of the UK’s most senior British Asian journalists, said today: ‘I would never use the word racist and his name in the same sentence’ and revealed he has spent his career mentoring reporters from ethnic minorities.

One on the UK’s best known news broadcasters, who asked not be named, told MailOnline: ‘It’s an absolute shambles and a disgrace. I don’t know if this is cover for something else – if someone wanted him out anyway they should have allowed a more gracious retirement – but it gives our industry a bad name and a bad look. Intolerant, obtuse, disloyal and illiterate’.   

Stewart was the longest-serving male newsreader after joining Southern Television in 1976 then ITN in 1980

Ranvir Singh, Good Morning Britain’s Political Editor (left today), said Mr Stewart (right this month), the longest-serving UK male newsreader, is not racist and has spent his career encouraging ethnic minority journalists

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'. Mr Shapland described this as a 'disgrace'

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’. Mr Shapland described this as a ‘disgrace’

Mr Shapland has spoken out almost 24 hours after Mr Stewart left ITN - and said that an apology would have sufficed but did not know how ITV and ITN had made their final decision

Mr Shapland has spoken out almost 24 hours after Mr Stewart left ITN – and said that an apology would have sufficed but did not know how ITV and ITN had made their final decision 

Revealed: Alastair Stewart used SAME ‘angry ape’ Shakespeare quote during Twitter row with WHITE environmentalist 18 months ago 

Alastair Stewart used the ‘angry ape’ quote from Measure for Measure during a Twitter row with a white environmentalist 18 months ago, it emerged today.

The tweet emerged after the veteran presenter was forced out of ITN last night after black Twitter user Martin Shapland complained he used the phrase towards him.

But in June 2018, Mr Stewart had used exactly the same Shakespeare quote in an exchange – this time over horsefeed and ragwort – with a white Twitter user.

He had been in a discussion with Friends of the Earth supporter Neil Jones, an environmentalist, nature enthusiast and ragwort expert from Swansea, South Wales. 

Mr Stewart was responding to a tweet by Mr Jones who had said he had spent years studying ragwort and had checked his facts with data and other experts. 

His ITN colleagues are said to be signing a ‘get Alastair Stewart reinstated’ petition launched today and one senior source told Buzzfeed’s Alex Wickham: ‘Anna Mallett (ITN CEO) and her wingman Chris Shaw (ITN Editorial Director) must come out and explain why they have hung him out for a public shaming. It is a total disgrace’. 

At 5pm yesterday the 67-year-old newsreader said he was quitting after ‘a misjudgement which I regret’ on social media and told friends he was ‘very sad it was ending this way’ after an online row with Mr Shapland about where he quoted lines from William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.  

But it has now emerged Mr Stewart, who has been crowned Britain’s top news presenter by the Royal Television Society three times in his career and has an OBE for services to broadcasting, used the same passage including ‘angry ape’ in a Twitter debate on ragwort in June 2018 with Swansea environmentalist Neil Jones, who is white.  

As Mr Stewart’s sudden departure caused a major storm, it has emerged:

  • ITN bosses have been asked to ‘explain themselves’ to irate staff over decision to force out their longest-serving broadcaster – colleagues said to be signing online petition;
  • Man at centre of the race row says he has had a ‘death threat’ since Mr Stewart stepped down and believes an apology would have sufficed;  
  • Three-times NTS presenter of the year who has an OBE for services to broadcasting is lying low in his £1.7m Hampshire farmhouse;
  • Colleagues at ITN including Mary Nightingale, Julie Etchingham and Ranvir Singh praise ‘gentleman’ they call ‘Al’;
  • Ms Nightingale forced to announce his departure on live TV and struggled to hold back tears after working together for 27 years; 
  • BBC powerhouse presenter Andrew Neil declares: ‘Alastair Stewart — now the only person to be fired for quoting Shakespeare accurately. The only explanation can be the ITN suits wanted him out — and seized their chance;

Mr Shapland deleted all his tweets today amid scrutiny of his own social media where he was accused of ‘anti-white bigotry’ because his messages were packed with rants about ‘f***ing white privilege’. 

Ms Nightingale, Julie Etchingham and ex- boss Richard Frediani have paid tribute to a ‘broadcasting legend’ while over at the BBC, star presenter Andrew Neil said: ‘Alastair Stewart – Now the only person to be fired for quoting Shakespeare accurately. The only explanation can be the ITN suits wanted him out — and seized their chance’. 

And as calls for him to be reinstated grew, Good Morning Britain political editor Ranvir Singh, one of the UK’s best known British Asian broadcasters, today declared she ‘adores’ the ‘gracious and encouraging’ newsreader and revealed his ‘pride’ at mentoring ‘black talent’ over the years.  She added: ‘I call my son a monkey all the time [and say]: ‘come on you little monkey get to bed’. I’m not being racist. I find it really unsettling’.  

ITN newsreader Mary Nightingale was close to tears last night after she announced her ‘friend and mentor’ Alastair Stewart had been forced out by their bosses over a Twitter spat

Stewart's decision to step down comes after a black Twitter user claimed he 'called him an angry ape' three weeks ago. Martin Shapland later branded Stewart a 'disgrace'

Stewart’s decision to step down comes after a black Twitter user claimed he ‘called him an angry ape’ three weeks ago. Martin Shapland later branded Stewart a ‘disgrace’

These are all the tweets sent between Martin Shapland and Alastair Stewart which could be recovered via a cached search by MailOnline. All of the messages above have now been deleted by both men

These are all the tweets sent between Martin Shapland and Alastair Stewart which could be recovered via a cached search by MailOnline. All of the messages above have now been deleted by both men

Viewers believe his exit could and should have have been handled differently - and not ended with '2 sentences' from a visibly grieving Mary Nightingale

Viewers believe his exit could and should have have been handled differently - and not ended with '2 sentences' from a visibly grieving Mary Nightingale

Viewers believe his exit could and should have have been handled differently – and not ended with ‘2 sentences’ from a visibly grieving Mary Nightingale

Lobbyist who accused Alastair Stewart of racism is a Lib dem supporter who worked in Parliament

Martin Shapland, 34, who complained the 67-year-old veteran presenter called him an ‘angry ape’, deleted all his tweets today amid scrutiny of his own social media.

The former Liberal Democrat researcher from Stratford, East London was accused of ‘anti-white bigotry’ over his messages featuring rants about ‘f***ing white privilege’.

According to his LinkedIn page, Mr Shapland obtained a degree in modern history and political sciences from Birmingham University.

He has been a policy manager at the Institution of Civil Engineers for the past two years and was previously a House of Commons researcher.

Asked about the Twitter row between Stewart and its employee, a spokesman for the ICE said: ‘It is a private matter.’

A broadcaster who worked with Alastair Stewart for many years hit out at his departure.

‘If they just wanted rid of him, which these days just happens because you’re a bit old and a bit expensive, there are other, fairer ways,’ the broadcaster told PA.

‘He’s senior, he’s well loved. He’s somebody who should have left in a blaze of glory. He’s one of the greats … It’s this quite modern idea that you get cancelled for saying just one thing,’ the broadcaster said.

‘Very, very senior journalists, broadcasters who either worked with him or know him through their jobs, are pretty appalled that this has happened to him.’

Good Morning Britain host Ben Shephard said: ‘I’ve been lucky enough to work with Alastair over the years as well, and he’s an extraordinarily generous person with experience as a broadcaster to work with.’

Broadcaster Katie Derham wrote on Twitter: ‘So very sorry to hear the news about Alastair Stewart stepping down from ITN. A very dear friend and colleague; enormous fun and extremely supportive, and unbelievably well informed. He will be missed.’ 

Mr Stewart is believed to be at his £1.7million Hampshire farm today and a man believed to be Alastair’s son said his father would not be commenting further today.

ITN has refused to give more details on his sudden departure but several sources said it related to a Twitter spat on January 13 – with the star newsreader likely to have chosen to walk out on his own terms rather than face being suspended or sacked by his bosses, who are said to have been nervous about his social media posts after he called someone an ‘absolute p***k’ last year.

Yesterday evening his colleague of 27-years Mary Nightingale struggled not to cry as she was forced to tell viewers how Mr Stewart was stepping down following ‘errors of judgement in Alastair’s use of social media which breached ITN’s editorial guidelines’.

Viewers pointing out that her eyes appeared to be red from tears with many fans venting their anger about how he was ‘badly treated’ and  ‘denied a proper on-screen goodbye’ after more than four decades on television.  

Shortly before going on air Mary tweeted: ‘Very sad about the departure of #AlastairStewart. He was a good friend and mentor to me when I started at Carlton TV, and we worked together for more than 27 years. I will miss him’. 

ITV’s social media policies prohibiting ‘anything that might damage the brand’

Like all media companies ITV has guidelines for how employees should conduct themselves on social media.

The ITV social media policy says: ‘Do not do anything that might damage any ITV brand or ITV relationships (e.g. with talent or commercial clients) as this can lead to issues with the contracts held with those parties which may include provisions requiring us not to damage their reputation’

There are also a number of prohibited activities in the guidelines which are: ‘Do not make offensive statements and be particularly careful to avoid offensive statements relating to an individual’s age, gender, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy/maternity, sexual orientation, disability, race, religion and culture’

Speaking on GMB today Ranvir Singh said: ‘He is a gentleman and he has done nothing but encourage me, it saddens me. I need to speak to him and find out what he meant. From what I understand is the misjudgement that might be getting drawn into a spat. I would put my house on it that not for one second did he write it in a slur’. 

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. 

Along with Mary Nightingale, his colleagues leapt to his defence, saying the broadcasting ‘legend’ had been ‘shunted out’. One insisted last night: ‘Alastair is not a racist.’

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.’ 

Broadcasters have rallied around Mr Stewart who has won a string of awards in his career and received an OBE in 2006 for services to broadcasting

Broadcasters have rallied around Mr Stewart who has won a string of awards in his career and received an OBE in 2006 for services to broadcasting

More than a year ago Alastair Stewart used the same quote while debating with another Twitter user who is white during a row

More than a year ago Alastair Stewart used the same quote while debating with another Twitter user who is white during a row

The Shakespeare quote at the heart of Alastair Stewart’s social media rift

Alastair, pictured with his wife of 42 years Sally Ann, used Shakespeare in the row that led to his departure

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’

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’.

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.’

Describing Stewart as a disgrace, Mr Shapland shared the tweet and said: ‘Just an ITV newsreader referring to me as an ape.’

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 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.

‘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.’ 

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’.

Mr Stewart, pictured with broadcasters including Emily Maitlis, Katie Derham, Mary Nightingale, and Natasha Kaplinsky has received a great deal of support from his colleagues, many of whom believe he is badly treated

Mr Stewart, pictured with broadcasters including Emily Maitlis, Katie Derham, Mary Nightingale, and Natasha Kaplinsky has received a great deal of support from his colleagues, many of whom believe he is badly treated

After she spoke out on GMB one viewer criticised her for defending her friend because she is a 'woman of colour'

After she spoke out on GMB one viewer criticised her for defending her friend because she is a ‘woman of colour’

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. 

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.  A fan of rock music, Mr Stewart won Celebrity Mastermind in December 2009 with The Rolling Stones as his specialist subject. 

In later tweets in his spat with 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 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 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, 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 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 Stewart as ‘a good friend’ and called him ‘generous, supportive and quick to correct unfairness or nonsense, authoritative, kind and one of life’s enthusiasts’.

The full chain of Mr Stewart's tweets have emerged online - in it fans warned that the 'poorly educated' could accuse him of racism before Mr Shapland then raising it with the TellMama anti-racism charity and with Mr Stewart's ITV bosses

The full chain of Mr Stewart’s tweets have emerged online – in it fans warned that the ‘poorly educated’ could accuse him of racism before Mr Shapland then raising it with the TellMama anti-racism charity and with Mr Stewart’s ITV bosses

The broadcaster's Twitter account has been deleted since it was announced that Stewart was stepping down

The broadcaster’s Twitter account has been deleted since it was announced that Stewart was stepping down 

ITV broadcaster Ranvir Singh is attacked on Twitter for ‘putting friendship over reality’ after defending ex-colleague Alastair Stewart as ‘not racist and a gentlemen’ after he was forced to quit over race row

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 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

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’.

‘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.

Mrs Singh tweeted about Mr Stewart last night, saying she has 'adored' working with him

Mrs Singh tweeted about Mr Stewart last night, saying she has ‘adored’ working with him

‘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.

‘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?’

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

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

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.’

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’. 

‘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.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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