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BBC cleared over Starkey's race remarks

CONTROVERSIAL: The BBC has been cleared over racial remarks made by David Starkey

THE BBC has been cleared by Ofcom over the controversial race remarks made by historian, David Starkey, during an appearance on Newsnight.

The media regulator, which is said to have received more than 100 complaints from members of the public, said the historian's offensive comments about the recent UK riots had sufficiently been challenged by Newsnight's presenter, Emily Maitlis.

"This was a serious and measured discussion within a programme with a well-established nature and format and with reputation for dealing with challenging subjects. The effect of his comments was limited by the presenter's moderation of the item and his comments were countered by the views of other contributors," an Ofcom spokesperson told the Independent.

In an appearance on the show following the August riots that rocked the country, Starkey lamented about cultural changes and claimed "the problem is that the whites have become black".

He said: “The whites have become black. A particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture has become the fashion. And black and white, boy and girl, operate in this language together, this language which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican patois that’s been intruded in England, and this is why so many of us have this sense of literally a foreign country.”

To further outrage, the historian went on to say: “Listen to David Lammy (MP), an archetypical successful black man,” he said. “If you turned the screen off so you were listening to him on radio you’d think he was white.”

Fellow guest on the show, writer and education adviser Dreda Say Mitchell, wasted no time in voicing her outrage.

She said to Starkey: “You said David Lammy when you heard him sounded white and what you meant by that is that white people equals respectable.”

She added: "You keep talking about black culture. Black communities are not homogenous. So there are black cultures. Lots of different black cultures. What we need to be doing is ... thinking about ourselves not as individual communities ... as one community. We need to stop talking about them and us."

In an exclusive interview with The Voice show after the BBC 2 show aired, Starkey justified his comments, saying:

“I used the Lammy example to emphasise that I was speaking about culture and not skin colour. What I was saying is that Lammy had an Oxford education and talked as though he had. I regard myself as a civilized man. But it’s not about skin colour, it’s about culture. It’s basically how people are brought up, reared, educated and socialised, the life opportunities they make for themselves, and the life opportunities that are available to them.”

He also hit black at widespread claims that he was a racist. He said:

“I’m absolutely not, in anyway possible, racist. I think racists are demented. I was born crippled, with two left feet and had to wear surgical boats until I was in my early teens. I turned out to be gay and I had to wear spectacles from the age of nine."

In an earlier statement, the BBC said that while it understood that some people may have found Starkey's comments offensive, "he was robustly challenged by presenter Emily Maitlis and the other contributors who took issue with his comments".

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