Veteran newsreader Alastair Stewart has joined new channel GB News – over a year after he was forced out of ITV for quoting Shakespeare at a black Twitter user.
The television star had previously presented the news for some 45 years before the row exploded at the start of last year.
Stewart, 68, was hauled over the coals by bosses after viewer Martin Shapland, 34, complained about his tweet quoting a Shakespeare passage that contained the phrase ‘angry ape’.
At the time Andrew Neil, who is now chairman of GB News, publicly backed him and said ‘ITN suits had forced him out’.
Stewart appeared to make a veiled reference to the trouble in the statement welcoming him to the new channel.
He said: ‘GB News is a unique opportunity to broaden the spectrum, challenge the groupthink and move away a predictable agenda in news and debate.
Alastair Stewart, 68, offered to make a private apology but was told it would not be enough
However his accuser Martin Shapland, 34, a lobbyist from east London, has tweeted that a private apology would have been ‘more than sufficient’
The message that sparked the end of Mr Stewart’s ITV and ITN career was retweeted by many
‘I can’t wait to get stuck in and tackle issues that really matter to people across the United Kingdom.’
Stewart had been the longest-serving male newsreader after joining Southern Television in 1976 then ITN in 1980.
He married Sally Ann Jung in 1978 and they have four children together, Freddie Stewart, Clemmie Stewart, Oscar Stewart and Alexander Stewart.
But the multiple-award winning presenter and journalist became embroiled in a debate on Twitter with Mr Shapland in January last year.
The duo appeared to be discussing the relationship between the Crown and taxpayer funds.
Mr Stewart said: ‘This is you (sic) last chance.
‘As a student of history you should know the basis of the financial relationship between the Crown and the tax-payer.
‘It was sealed with the Civil List which was subsequently replaced by the Sovereign Grant & finessed by the John Major tax deal’.
Mr Stewart then quoted a speech from Shakespeare play Measure for Measure, which includes the words ‘angry ape’ to an account that is not Mr Shapland’s.
Mr Shapland shared the tweet, adding: ‘Just an ITV newsreader referring to me as an ape with the cover of Shakespeare. Measure for Measure, Alistair is a disgrace.’
In later tweets he described Mr Stewart’s behaviour as ‘ignorant bullying’ and suggests he should receive some ‘lessons in etiquette’.
Mr Stewart used the quote in reference to a different person who was not black just months earlier.
He was awarded an OBE in 2006 for services to broadcasting – is one of the more popular broadcaster’s in the country and their has been an outpouring of support for him on social media.
At the time of the tweet Mr Stewart said: ‘It was a misjudgement which I regret, but it’s been a privilege to bring the news to households throughout the UK for the past 40 years.’
There was also backlash among viewers and fellow broadcasters who accused ITN bosses of ‘forcing out’ the long-standing newsreader.
More than 16,000 people signed a petition demanding Mr Stewart got his job of more than 40 years back and that his accuser made a public apology.
The Change.org petition describes the race row as ‘ridiculous’ and comes after veteran BBC broadcaster Andrew Neil declared that ‘the only explanation can be the ITN suits wanted him out – and seized their chance.’
Mr Neil, 71, said his ITN peer is ‘the only person to be fired for quoting Shakespeare accurately’ after Mr Stewart posted a tweet that his bosses claim was a ‘breach of social media policy and editorial guidelines’.
Alastair Stewart and Martin Shapland: The transcript
Here is the exchange on Twitter between Alastair Stewart and Martin Shapland on January 13:
Alastair Stewart: ‘The Queen’s father, George VI, died at Sandringham. It is a place of poignancy for her.’
Martin Shapland: ‘I imagine all of her castles and palaces are poignant in some way. Let’s not stop to wonder why one family gets to have so many palatial homes at taxpayers’ expense though. Might realise what a scam it is.’
AS: ‘I’m guessing you haven’t read much history.’
MS: ‘Well I have a degree in it so sure, let’s just make stuff up?’
AS: ‘This is your last chance. As a student of history you should know the basis of the financial relationship between the Crown and the taxpayer. It was sealed with the Civil List which was subsequently replaced by the Sovereign Grant and finessed by the John Major tax deal.’
MS: ‘The civil list was abolished in 2010. So on the ball.’
AS: ‘But man, proud man, / Dress’d in a little brief authority, / Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d – / His glassy essence – like an angry ape, / Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven, / As makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens, / Would all themselves laugh mortal’
MS: ‘Just an ITV newsreader referring to me as an ape with the cover of Shakespeare. Measure for measure, Alistair is a disgrace.’
AS: *Halo emoji*
MS: ‘He’s even done his own version of ‘innocent face’. Could I ask what ITV, ITV News and Geoff Hill think of this?’
The early morning Twitter row between Martin Shapland and Alastair Stewart began on January 13 when Alastair Stewart referred to the importance of Sandingham to the Queen, where she was meeting Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry. Mr Shapland then tweeted about how much the royals cost the taxpayer. The broadcaster was drawn into the row over funding which culminated in the presenter quoting the Shakespeare quote that cost him his job yesterday