Grant Shapps today criticised veteran BBC correspondent John Simpson after he referenced the Nazis in a bid to explain why the broadcaster is refusing to call Hamas terrorists.
The Defence Secretary, who is Jewish, attacked a 600-word blogpost by the 79-year-old that was published on BBC website, with excerpts later emailed to staff.
In it Mr Simonson claimed ‘BBC Broadcasters were expressly told not to call the Nazis evil or wicked’ during the Second World War.
It came as the corporation continued to resist calls to brand the Palestinian group terrorists despite their bloody attack on Israel that left 1,300 dead.
The post further angered Jewish BBC staff when Deborah Turness, the BBC’s chief executive of news and current affairs, included this part of his blog in an email to staff.
Speaking during a visit to Washington to meet his US counterpart, Mr Shapps said: ‘John Simpson, who’s a journalist who I hugely have always admired, must know as well as anyone else does that when you start to cite the Nazis in any argument you’ve basically lost it.
The Defence Secretary, who is Jewish, criticised a 600-word blogpost by the 79-year-old that was published on BBC website.
Jewish BBC staff are said to have been shocked by references to Nazis in a blog post by veteran journalist John Simpson
Ahmed Hussain, who has been in charge of BBC radio station Asian Network since 2020, is also said to have reposted messages querying whether the terror group beheaded babies
‘Parliament has defined them (Hamas) as a terrorist organization, Ofcom have confirmed that the BBC is wrong to claim that Ofcom won’t let them call them terrorists. I think it’s time for the BBC to move on.’
Simpson wrote: ‘It’s always been like this in the BBC. During World War Two, BBC broadcasters were expressly told not to call the Nazis evil or wicked, even though we could and did call them ‘the enemy’. ‘Above all,’ said a BBC document, ‘there must be no room for ranting’. Our tone had to be calm and collected.’
But one BBC staff member told the Times: ‘What was he thinking of by referencing the Nazis?
‘It’s never a good idea, and particularly not at the moment.
‘Does he not realise how vulnerable Jewish members of staff are feeling? It shouldn’t have been repeated by Deborah.’
Another said that people were ‘not happy about it’ and it was ‘questionable’, having lacked awareness about the ‘sensitivities’ of this language.
It comes as it emerged that the head of BBC radio station Asian Network reposted tweets which described Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks as ‘genocide’.
Ahmed Hussain, who has been in charge of the station since 2020, is also said to have reposted messages querying whether the terror group beheaded babies. The BBC is already facing criticism from Jewish groups for its handling of the crisis, which began when Hamas fighters attacked Israel on October 7.
The BBC has refused to describe those behind the attacks as ‘terrorists’, instead using words such as ‘militants’ – despite the fact that the Government classifies Hamas as a terrorist group.
This has sparked a backlash from politicians and British Jews, with hundreds of protesters demonstrating outside the BBC in London on Monday night.
The BBC is now expected to look into its use of the word terrorism in relation to groups such as Hamas as part of a review of its editorial guidelines in the spring.
On Monday night there was anger when the BBC called the Islamic State-inspired shooting in Brussels, in which two Swedes were killed, a ‘terror attack’. The BBC then said this use of the word terror had been a ‘mistake’. The corporation is also facing scrutiny over claims that another BBC programme has questioned whether a Hamas massacre at a kibbutz had actually happened.
The BBC is now expected to look into its use of the word terrorism in relation to groups such as Hamas
According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, a BBC Arabic programme called Trending had suggested there was more than one version of this story.
A BBC spokesman said the report had been ‘quickly removed from BBC output’ as it did not meet its ‘editorial standards’.
This comes as the BBC investigates reports that six journalists and a freelancer at for its Arabic service appeared to support Hamas and had backed its attacks on social media. All are thought to have been taken off air while the investigation continues.
Yesterday, the BBC responded to claims about the head of its Asian Network. It said: ‘Our social media guidance sets out clear expectations for staff, including the particular responsibility for all senior leaders to uphold the BBC’s impartiality. Any breaches are taken seriously, and we have spoken to Ahmed and reminded him of these responsibilities.’