JOURNALISTS HAVE defended veteran ITV News presenter Alastair Stewart who has resigned after he sent a tweet to a black man featuring the words “angry ape”.
Stewart, who has been a presenter for 40 years, stepped down from his role at ITN after what has been described as “errors of judgment” on social media.
It is believed that his resignation was prompted as a result of his exchange with Twitter user Martin Shapland in which he quoted an extract from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, although the precise reasons for his sudden exit have not been confirmed.
In the wake of Stewart’s resignation, fellow broadcasters and journalists have praised him and expressed their sadness at his departure from ITN.
Julie Etchingham said: “So sad to learn this – we have worked on many big stories together and AI is a trusted friend and guide to many of us.”
Ranvir Singh, political editor of ITV’s Good Morning Britain, said: “I would never use the word ‘racist’ and his name in the same sentence.”
She told Good Morning Britain: “In my gut, I would put my house on it that not for one second did he write that quote thinking that it was in any way a slur on anyone’s skin colour.”
She also added that Singh had been supportive of black staff in the newsroom.
Sky News’ Adam Boulton tweeted: “First person to chair a proper Leaders Debate in 2010. A great TV journalist, professional model and friend. Alastair Stewart. So sad.”
The tweet at the centre of the row read: “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.”
Shapland shared the tweet with his followers and the comment: “Just an ITV newsreader referring to me as an ape with the cover of Shakespeare. Measure for measure, Alistair is a disgrace.”
The BBC reported that Stewart had tweeted the extract once before to another user who was not identifiably black.
Shapland said that the “angry ape” tweet was not the only one that caused “upset”.
Writer Kate Maltby published a series of tweets that supported reports that there Stewart’s exchange with Shapland featured multiple tweets.
“I’ve admired Alastair Stewart for years, and really enjoyed getting to know him a bit on here,” Maltby tweeted.
“But: I watched the actual exchange in real time because I also follow and like his interlocutor. And it was much, much nastier than has been reported. It wasn’t just the ‘ape’ quote.”
She added: “Most of the tweets have now been deleted, so people now commentating think it’s just ‘the ape thing’. As I recall, AS went on a rant about Martin’s education level, dismissed the possibility he could have a degree, really picked on him by quote-tweeting & encouraging a pile-on.”
Shapland, who Twitter bio reads “tweet in haste, repent in leisure” and has deleted all of his historic tweets in the wake of Stewart’s resignation, issued a statement today about the incident.
Shapland described Stewart’s decision to step down as “regrettable” but said he respected it.
He said: “No one is perfect. We are all human and we all need to learn from our experiences and mistakes and try to be better people in the wake of them. An apology and commitment to be more careful about language was all that I would have asked. It is regrettable that he has decided to stand down and I take no pleasure in that. He has evidently gone through an ITN and ITV process and I respect his choice.”
He added that he has faced “a torrent of abuse” since Stewart’s decision to step down was announced.