Gove triggers outcry for Weinstein joke that ‘trivialises sexual assault’

MP criticised for comparing Today programme interview with John Humphrys to entering the movie producers bedroom

Michael Gove has apologised following an outcry over an ill-judged gag comparing tough interviews on BBC Radio 4′ s Today programme to going into Harvey Weinstein’s bedroom.

The surrounding secretary said his” clumsy try at humor … wasn’t appropriate. I’m sorry and apologise unreservedly .”

He made the statements on a special edition of Today to mark the programme’s 60 th anniversary.

Asked by the presenter John Humphrys whether interviews on Today could induce politicians seem silly, Gove replied:” Well, I know what you mean. Sometimes I think that coming into the studio with you, John, is a bit like going to get Harvey Weinstein’s bedroom .”

The former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, who was being interviewed along with Gove, then added:” John runs route past groping- style past groping .”

Michael Gove speaks to BBC Radio 4 presenter John Humphrys at Wigmore Hall in central London. Photo: Rick Findler/ PA

Gove continued by saying:” You simply pray that you emerge with your dignity intact, but the broader point is that, yes, you can make a fool of yourself .”

The comments were stimulated in front of an audience of about 500 people in Wigmore Hall in central London. While some laughed and clapped in response, others sat stoney-faced or with a seem of disgust.

The commentaries by Gove and Lord Kinnock were immediately criticised on social media. The Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, tweeted 😛 TAGEND

Nicola Sturgeon (@ NicolaSturgeon)

Women being abused and raped is not a laughter matter. And it doesn’t induce us’ humourless’ to say so. https :// zWXWAdVWmz

October 28, 2017

Jo Swinson, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:” No, Michael Gove it’s not like that. I have never once feared for my personal safety in a media studio. Don’t trivialise sexual assault .”

The Labour MP Jess Phillips tweeted:” Michael Gove just left the studio without his dignity .”
The shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, said Gove was ” not funny”, adding:” Given current sensitivities[ it] is beyond poor decision – it’s crass .”

Stella Creasy, the Labour MP, added:” This looking didn’t work for James Corden … Gove joking about sexual assault just as crass too .”

Corden attempted to make a series of jokes about Weinstein, who faces a string of sexual harassment and abuse accusations, at an event in the US earlier this month.

Nick Robinson, the Today presenter, was in the audience and posted Gove’s comment on social media, which attracted criticism. However, he afterward clarified:” I know many people are offended by this. To be clear- I tweeted a newsworthy quote without comment .”

Gove tweeted the apology for specific comments about 90 minutes after it was broadcast.

Michael Gove (@ michaelgove)

Apologies for my clumsy endeavor at humour on R4 Today this morning -it wasn’t appropriate. I’m sorry and apologise unreservedly

October 28, 2017

The interview with Gove and Kinnock took place in Today’s 8.10 am slot, which is traditionally reserved for major political interviews. To mark the anniversary of Today, the pair were invited to discuss the BBC programme and its political interviews.

This was one of a number of segments dedicated to celebrating the 60 th anniversary of Today. Other features included Joanna Lumley reading out the time at 8am, Sir Richard Stilgoe singing about Today’s anniversary, and the former presenters Sue MacGregor, Libby Purves and Sally Thompson discussing their experiences of working on the show.

The programme was presented by Humphrys and Sarah Montague, but in a break with the usual format, the other Today presenters Justin Webb, Mishal Husain and Robinson also presented segments. Robinson interviewed members of the audience, which included former Today presenters, correspondents and other staff.

While the programme attracted regular applause from the live audience, it was dismissed as indulgent by critics.

Andrew Adonis, the former transport secretary, said on social media:” Seriously inappropriate’ joke ‘, sums up a discreditable episode of Today self-congratulation.

” Frankly a great shame. Today boasting how brilliant it is, rape jokes from a minister. Get back to reporting and questioning.

” Cloying self-congratulation of Today misplaced. Britain in crisis and BBC should be asking what portion it played in devaluing of public debate .”

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