BBC presenter Huw Edwards has backed Naga Munchetty over the flag row with a tweet joking that the Welsh flag would be the backdrop to the News at Ten – before taking it down ‘by order’.
Miss Munchetty, who hosts the flagship Breakfast programme, was ‘reminded of her responsibilities’ by the corporation after liking a series of anti-Conservative tweets after she and co-host Charlie Stayt ridiculed Robert Jenrick for having a Union flag and a portrait of the Queen in his office.
Her co-presenter Mr Stayt mockingly told the Housing Secretary that his large flag was ‘not up to standard size’ and was ‘just a little bit small’ yesterday, before she laughed at his remarks.
Mr Jenrick smiled politely but did not comment as the camera returned to the studio, where Miss Munchetty broke an awkward silence by adding: ‘The picture of the Queen there as well though, in the Westminster office I assume.’
Later yesterday, despite social media users accusing the presenters of breaching BBC impartiality rules, £195,000-a-year presenter Miss Munchetty liked tweets praising her and Mr Stayt over the incident, further fuelling the row.
It then went a step further today when Mr Edwards had his say, posting a picture of the Welsh national flag, with the caption: ‘Flags are now mandatory – very pleased with my new backdrop for @BBCNews at Ten’.
However, just hours later, he deleted the tweet and followed it up with a fresh message, suggesting corporation bosses had told him to remove it.
Alongside a picture of the BBC flag, he wrote: ‘Gutted. My pro-flag tweet has been cut down in its prime. By order. But it will be back tomorrow — by popular demand. Meanwhile enjoy this magnificent flag — one of my favourites.’
The BBC declined to comment on his remarks.
BBC presenter Huw Edwards has weighed in on the Naga Munchetty flag row with a tweet joking that the Welsh flag would be the backdrop to the News at Ten – before taking it down ‘by order’
Today, BBC News presenter Huw Edwards jokingly made a reference to the row, tweeting a picture of the Welsh flag (left) and saying: ‘Flags are now mandatory – very pleased with my new backdrop for BBC News at Ten.’ But soon after, Mr Edwards removed the tweet and wrote (right): ‘Gutted. My pro-flag tweet been cut down in its prime. By order. But it will be back tomorrow – by popular demand Meanwhile enjoy this magnificent flag – one of my favourites. #SixNationsRugby #FRAvWAL’
Charlie Stayt (left) mocked Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick over his Union flag before Naga Munchetty (right) laughed
Naga Munchetty later apologised about liking a series of tweets about the row after being ‘reminded of her responsibilities’
Naga Munchetty liked the above tweets praising her and Charlie Stayt over the incident with Robert Jenrick on BBC Breakfast
Mr Jenrick tweeted the picture of the Queen and Union flag, saying: ‘We’re always proud to fly the Union Flag at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. It’s a symbol of liberty and freedom that binds the whole country together’
How Naga was rebuked over Donald Trump comments – before Lord Hall overturned decision
Naga Munchetty was rebuked by the BBC two years ago after commenting on US president Donald Trump’s call for a group of female Democrats to ‘go back’ to their own countries.
The corporation initially ruled that the presenter had breached editorial guidelines before then director-general Tony Hall reversed the decision.
The row began when she responded to Mr Trump’s words in July 2019, telling her co-presenter Dan Walker: ‘Every time I have been told, as a woman of colour, to go back to where I came from, that was embedded in racism’. She added: ‘I’m not accusing anyone of anything here, but you know what certain phrases mean.’
The BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit then ruled in September that year that Ms Munchetty had breached editorial guidelines.
But this decision was itself labelled racist by broadcasters including Sir Lenny Henry and Krishnan Guru-Murthy who said it should be reversed.
Following the outrage over the BBC’s ruling, Lord Hall sent an email to staff claiming the decision ‘sparked an important debate about racism and its interpretation’.
He added: ‘I don’t think Naga’s words were sufficient to merit a partial uphold of the complaint around the comments she made.’
In July 2020, she was again backed by the BBC after being accused of ‘endorsing criminal behaviour’ during a report on Black Lives Matter when discussing a replacement statue in Bristol to replace that of slave trader Edward Colston.
A second incident in the same month saw her accused of showing ‘political bias’ against Chancellor Rishi Sunak when questioning him about his ‘mini-budget’, but she was again supported by bosses for a ‘professional and fair’ interview.
Last year it was claimed Miss Munchetty charges £15,000 a time for speaking engagements through international agency Speakers Corner.
She was also criticised after being paid to appear in a corporate PR video for Aston Martin and filming business interviews for NatWest.
The tweets 46-year-old Miss Munchetty liked included one which said ‘the flag sh**gers will be up in arms’ and this ‘should be done every time the Tories roll out one of their talking head ministers’.
But the presenter then apologised last night, tweeting at about 7.30pm: ‘I ‘liked’ tweets today that were offensive in nature about the use of the British flag as a backdrop in a government interview this morning.
‘I have since removed these ‘likes’. This do not represent the views of me or the BBC. I apologise for any offence taken. Naga.’
A BBC source told MailOnline: ‘Naga has been reminded of her responsibilities in response to her liking the tweets about the comment.’
A spokesman added: ‘It was a light-hearted, off the cuff comment. No offence was intended.’
Mr Jenrick was on the show yesterday discussing Britain’s vaccine programme after European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s threat to impose an export ban on jabs from the European Union.
At the end of the interview Mr Stayt thanked the politician before making the comments about the Union flag in the corner of his room. He said: ‘I think your flag is not up to standard size government interview measurements.’
Mr Stayt added: ‘I think it’s just a little small, but that’s your department, really. Just a thought.’ Mr Jenrick smiled as the camera went back to the studio where Miss Munchetty made the comment about the Queen picture.
Later, Mr Jenrick tweeted the picture of the Queen and Union flag, saying: ‘We’re always proud to fly the Union Flag at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
‘It’s a symbol of liberty and freedom that binds the whole country together.’
And today, BBC News presenter Huw Edwards jokingly made a reference to the row, tweeting a picture of the Welsh flag and saying: ‘Flags are now mandatory – very pleased with my new backdrop for BBC News at Ten.’
But soon after, Mr Edwards removed the tweet and wrote: ‘Gutted. My pro-flag tweet been cut down in its prime. By order. But it will be back tomorrow – by popular demand Meanwhile enjoy this magnificent flag – one of my favourites. #SixNationsRugby #FRAvWAL.’
Yesterday, Tory MP James Cleverley hit back at Mr Stayt and Miss Munchetty, tweeting: ‘It’s not a small flag. It’s in the far corner of the room.’
And former BBC political journalist Andrew Neil added: ‘Sometimes the BBC forgets what the first B stands for.’
Baroness Hoey, the former Labour MP for Vauxhall, said the exchange was ‘exactly why’ BBC News ‘should no longer be allowed to charge a licence fee’, saying it was ‘always snidy about anyone standing up for our country’.
And actor Laurence Fox asked why the BBC was ‘so comprehensively stocked with sneering moral supremacists’ who looked down on people that ‘love their country’.
ConservativeHome chief executive Mark Wallace said: ‘What a bizarre thing for the BBC to sneer and snigger at. What’s wrong with ministers of the British government having the flag and the monarch on display?’
He added: ‘Even more fundamentally British than the flag and the Queen: smiling awkwardly when someone does something rude or weird.’ Tory MP James Cleverly said: ‘It’s not a small flag. It’s in the far corner of the room.’
Robert Jenrick smiled but did not comment as the camera went back to the studio where Naga Munchetty was laughing
How £195,000-a-year Naga Munhetty rose to become a BBC star and even appeared on Strictly
Naga Munchetty, 46, with her husband James Haggar in 2017
Subha Nagalakshmi Munchetty-Chendriah grew up in South London and once told how she was given the name ‘Naga’ by her mother because it means cobra – and she dreamed of snakes when she was pregnant.
Her father, from Mauritius and her mother, who is from India, met in Wales and married in London.
Now known as Naga Munchetty, she studied English at Leeds University before taking a postgraduate degree in newspaper journalism and had her first jobs writing financial reports for the London Evening Standard and the Observer.
Miss Munchetty, who is married to television consultant James Haggar, took her first job in TV at Reuters Financial Television, before working for CNBC Europe, Channel 4 News and Bloomberg Television.
She then joined the BBC Working Lunch team in 2008 before becoming a lead presenter on BBC Breakfast in 2014, where she now earns £195,000 a year.
Among the politicians and celebrities Miss Munchetty has interviewed are Hillary Clinton, David Cameron, Tony Blair, Sir Mick Jagger and Benedict Cumberbatch.
In her spare time, the 46-year-old started playing golf in 2008 and now plays off a handicap of nine, while she also ran the London Marathon in 2013. She appeared in the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and was a judge on the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, both in 2016.
Patrick O’Flynn, former MEP for the East of England, said: ‘Classic example life on Planet BBC. If Jenrick had told them: ”Screw you for mocking our flag and our monarch” he’d have been a superstar by lunchtime.’
BBC rules state that news staff must adhere to an online code of conduct, which says: ‘Nothing should appear on your personal social media accounts that undermine the perception of the BBC’s integrity or impartiality.’
In September 2019, Miss Munchetty was embroiled in a race row after she condemned then-US president Donald Trump for telling some female politicians to ‘go back’ to where they came from.
She was found to have breached editorial guidelines by the corporation’s complaints unit, but the ruling was reversed by Lord Hall after an outcry.
Emily Maitlis was also accused of violating the BBC’s impartiality guidelines after she delivered a highly critical monologue about the Dominic Cummings lockdown controversy last year during an episode of Newsnight.
She said Mr Cummings had ‘broken the rules’ when he travelled from London to Durham during lockdown and ‘the country can see that, and it’s shocked the Government cannot’.
Anger flooded in from some incensed by the initial broadcast, which they believed showed bias, while others were furious about the corporation’s rapid climb down, after it issued a statement saying she had broken the rules.
It comes as the BBC unveiled plans to ‘better reflect’ all parts of the UK with more programmes made outside of London and a soap set in the North of England on the cards.
It will shift away from London over the next six years in what it bills as its ‘biggest transformation in decades’. News and current affairs programmes like Newsnight will be presented from different UK bases.
Radio 4’s Today show will be co-hosted from outside London for at least 100 episodes a year. Viewers will see a ‘noticeable shift in portrayal of different parts of the UK in drama, comedy and factual’ shows, the BBC pledged.
The BBC, which was accused of failing to understand the vote for Brexit, hopes the move changes the tone of its programmes and journalism. The decision could also result in a BBC rival to ITV soap Coronation Street.
The broadcaster said it would air two new long-running drama series – one from the North of England and the other from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Viewers would see about 30 or more episodes a year of the show.