Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 June 2019

BBC's fired royal baby racist: racist, or just stupid?

Danny Baker claims his tweet depicting baby as a chimpanzee had no racial intentions

BBC DJ Danny Baker was fired after using a picture of a chimpanzee in a tweet about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's baby Archie. AP
BBC DJ Danny Baker was fired after using a picture of a chimpanzee in a tweet about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's baby Archie. AP

BBC TV and radio broadcaster Danny Baker has been fired after posting a racist tweet about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's new baby.

On Wednesday, the BBC Radio 5 Live presenter, game show host, journalist and comedy writer tweeted a black and white photo of a man and woman holding hands with a chimpanzee in a suit and a top hat, along with the caption, "Royal baby leaves hospital."

Following widespread outcry and accusations of racism, Baker deleted the tweet and said he was sorry the "gag" had "whipped some up." He claimed the chimp’s racist connotations had not occurred to him because his "mind (is) not diseased."

In a second message, Baker said that the tweet was "supposed to be a joke about Royals vs circus animals in posh clothes but interpreted as about monkeys & race, so rightly deleted. Royal watching not my forte." On Thursday, the broadcaster admitted he had made an "enormous mistake."

A BBC spokesperson said: "This was a serious error of judgment and goes against the values we as a station aim to embody. Danny's a brilliant broadcaster but will no longer be presenting a weekly show with us."

Baker responded defiantly to the decision, saying on Twitter that the calls for his dismissal were a "masterclass in pompous faux-gravity" and that the BBC "literally threw me under the bus."

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s new son, which they have called Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, was born on Monday. On Wednesday, the diminutive aristocrat made his first public appearance in front of the world’s media. The child has already entered the history books by being the first acknowledged mixed-race child in the British royal family.

Baker may well be telling the truth about the innocent intentions of his tweet, but to miss such obvious racial undertones seems careless in the extreme.

Markle has been a regular target of racist abuse ever since she married Harry, attracting the ire of many right-wingers and even sections of the British media.

Kensington Palace announced only in March that they would be dedicating more resources to blocking and deleting users and comments abusing Markle on social media, while issuing a new set of guidelines for people using its social media channels.

As a well-known football fan, who often reports on the game for the BBC, meanwhile, Baker must be only too aware of many terrace racists’ fondness for monkey chants aimed at black players, a phenomenon which has been alarmingly undergoing a resurgence in parts of Europe recently. Indeed, his own team, Millwall, have not been historically immune to controversy.

I'm certainly no royalist myself, and by all means criticise the royal family as an institution; the cloying sycophancy of the global media at the news that a lady is having a baby, or the anachronistic class system that still prevails in 21st century Britain. But keep chimpanzees out of it.

If Baker truly was unaware of the racial implications of his post, it’s hard to feel too much pity for him. His job should require him to keep abreast of prevailing public opinion and social and cultural trends, and racism is definitely not on-trend. Even "accidentally," and even as a "gag."

If he truly fails to comprehend that equating a chimpanzee to a mixed-race baby may not be ok, he deserves sacking not for racism, but for stupidity.

Updated: May 10, 2019 08:51 PM

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