ITN bosses have today been accused of hanging Alastair Stewart ‘out to dry’ with his colleagues in rebellion and signing a burgeoning petition demanding he gets his job back after he was forced out when a black Twitter user complained the star called him an ‘angry ape’.
ITV and BBC stars are rallying around the 67-year-old and fellow newsreader Mary Nightingale was in tears on live TV last night as she told viewers Britain’s longest-serving newsreader would not be seen again after 44 years on the station.
His 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 and her wingman Chris Shaw 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 Martin Shapland where he quoted lines from William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.
But Mr Stewart used the same passage including ‘angry ape’ in a Twitter debate on ragwort in June 2018 with Swansea environmentalist Neil Jones, who is white.
His fellow ITV stars Ms Nightingale, Julie Etchingham and ex-ITV News boss Richard Frediani paid tribute to a ‘broadcasting legend’ while over at the BBC 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
Mary had to go on live TV to tell viewers Mr Stewart, the longest-serving UK male newsreader, wouldn’t be seen again
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’
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’
Viewers believe his exit could and should have have been handled differently – and not ended with ‘2 sentences’ from a visibly grieving Mary Nightingale
More than a year ago he used the same quote while debating with another Twitter user who is white
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’
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 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’.
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’.
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.’
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.
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’
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’
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’, could not be reached for comment. 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.’
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
His Twitter account appeared blank yesterday as it was announced that Stewart was stepping down
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’.
‘He’s not racist, he’s a gentleman’: ITV broadcaster Ranvir Singh is attacked on Twitter for defending Alastair Stewart after he was forced to quit over race row – as she reveals he always championed black and ethnic minority journalists
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.
Mrs Singh posted this photograph of her with friend and colleague Alastair Stewart last night
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.
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 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.’