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GB News suspends Dan Wootton after Laurence Fox comments

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GB News, the broadcaster backed by hedge fund boss Paul Marshall, has suspended Dan Wootton, one of its most popular hosts, after airing sexist comments made by actor Laurence Fox about a female political journalist.  

GB News was heavily criticised by senior MPs and is being probed by the UK media watchdog following the show on Tuesday night.

Ofcom said it had “received a number of complaints about comments made by Laurence Fox” on the right-leaning channel, which pays Conservative party deputy chair Lee Anderson and former business secretary Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg to host its shows.

It added: “We are assessing these complaints against our broadcast rules and will publish the outcome as quickly as possible.”

GB News has also suspended Fox from appearing on the channel after launching its own investigation, and apologised for “totally unacceptable” comments aired in the interview on Tuesday night. 

Fox, an actor and also leader of the Reclaim Party, made the comments about Ava Evans, a political correspondent for the website Joe. 

Among other comments, he described her as a “little woman” and said “show me a single self-respecting man that would like to climb into bed with that woman”.

GB News on Wednesday afternoon suspended Wootton following comments made on his programme, the broadcaster said in a statement on Wednesday.

Wootton said in a statement: “I can see how inappropriate my reaction to his totally unacceptable remarks appears to be and want to be clear that I was in no way amused by the comments.”

Fox, who was contacted for a comment, said on social media that GB News knew what he intended to say. He said in a post: “If you are expecting a grovelling apology, I suggest you don’t hold your breath. I won’t ever apologise to the mob.”

He also used social media to post exchanges apparently with Wootton made after the interview. 

Marshall, who owns about 45 per cent of the channel, is lining up a bid for the Telegraph Media group, which has been put up for sale after Lloyds seized control from the Barclay family earlier this year.

On private Labour WhatsApp groups, one MP called for a frontbench boycott of GB News over the incident, while other MPs said they already had a policy of not engaging with the controversial broadcaster.

Lucy Frazer, the culture secretary, labelled the comments “unacceptable”, after initially declining to condemn Fox’s remarks.

Philip Davies, another Tory MP who hosts a programme on the channel alongside his wife Esther McVey, also a Conservative politician, said Fox’s comments were “completely unacceptable, unjustifiable and indefensible”.

Conservative officials confirmed that they planned to continue fielding MPs on the station, but said the party was already selective about the shows it engaged with, which did not include Wootton’s.

Wootton has been subject to allegations of inappropriate behaviour that has led to a separate investigation by Sun publisher News UK. Wootton has denied any wrongdoing.

“We’re not going to change our approach. It’s like saying we should review putting people on the BBC after Sachsgate,” said one Tory insider, referring to the scandal in which the BBC was censored and fined by Ofcom for broadcasting sex-themed prank calls by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross in 2008.

Labour frontbenchers also spoke out. Shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire said on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Should we [women] have to tell a broadcaster that on-air woman-hate is not OK?”

Emily Thornberry, shadow attorney-general, said the episode of “smirking, sniggering” misogyny “needs to be called out”, adding that “British television should never subject women to this sort of abuse”.

GB News has broken broadcasting rules three times since it launched in June 2021. Most recently, it breached the UK’s rules over impartiality after airing an interview with the British chancellor conducted by two of his fellow Conservative MPs, Davies and McVey.

GB News is being investigated for six further potential breaches of impartiality, including two on items anchored by Rees-Mogg. 

In May, Ofcom took action against GB News for airing claims by Naomi Wolf that the Covid-19 vaccine amounted to a premeditated crime — “mass murder” — and was comparable to the actions of “doctors in pre-Nazi Germany” without challenge or context.

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