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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 January, 2004, 09:11 GMT
Kilroy 'regrets' anti-Arab comments
Robert Kilroy-Silk
The Kilroy programme will be suspended from Monday
Television presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk has apologised for a newspaper article in which he made anti-Arab comments.

He said he greatly regretted the offence caused by the Sunday Express article, which was written in April but "republished last weekend in error".

In it, he branded Arabs "suicide bombers, limb amputators, women repressors" and asked what they had given to the world other than oil.

Earlier, the BBC suspended the Kilroy show while it investigates the matter.

The corporation stressed the comments did not reflect its views as a broadcaster.

The Daily Express defended the article in its sister paper, accusing the BBC of "attempting to stifle open debate".

'Factual errors'

In a statement, Mr Kilroy-Silk said: "I greatly regret the offence which has been caused by the article published in last weekend's Sunday Express.

It has obviously caused great distress and offence and I can only reiterate that I very deeply regret that
Robert Kilroy-Silk
"The article contains a couple of obvious factual errors which I also regret."

Mr Kilroy-Silk said the article had not prompted such an outcry the first time it was published, adding it was "not what I would have said today".

"It was originally written as a response to the views of opponents to the war in Iraq that Arab States 'loathe' the West and my piece referred to 'Arab States' rather than 'Arabs'," he said.

"Out of that context, it has obviously caused great distress and offence and I can only reiterate that I very deeply regret that."

But Mr Kilroy-Silk's words were rejected by Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

"I think he has basically regretted some of the statements in the article but he has not made a full apology," Mr Sacranie told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

'Ignorance'

Labour MP Lynne Jones told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The BBC needs to consider very carefully whether it's appropriate to have Mr Kilroy-Silk presenting a programme which is supposed to be objective and impartial in looking at topical issues."

BBC media correspondent Nick Higham said the Sunday Express had accused the BBC of overreacting and gagging free speech.

The Sunday Express is quoted in Saturday's Daily Express as saying: "The article was not racist. It was legalled by lawyers and there is absolutely no case to answer."

On Friday, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) described the piece written by the discussion show host in last week's Sunday Express as a "gratuitous anti-Arab rant".

Mr Kilroy-Silk's article included comments saying the toppling of despotic regimes in the Middle East should be a war aim, and questioned the contribution of the Arab nations to world welfare and civilisation.

He said Arabs "murdered more than 3,000 civilians on 11 September" and then "danced in the streets" to celebrate.

I certainly think he's entitled to his opinions
Perry de Havilland
Libertarian Alliance

Mr Sacranie wrote in a letter to BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey that Mr Kilroy-Silk had failed to distinguish between the terrorists behind the 11 September attacks and 200 million "ordinary Arab peoples".

Mr Sacranie condemned the "bigoted and ill-informed ideas" in the piece, which he said was "ignorant, extremely derogatory and indisputably racist".

The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) reported the matter to the police.

CRE chairman Trevor Phillips commended the BBC for taking swift action on the matter.

He said: "It is unbelievable. It's not just what he says, but the way he says it, which is completely offensive, and the level of ignorance he shows."

TV host defended

But Perry de Havilland of the Libertarian Alliance defended the television host's right to free speech.

He told BBC News: "Blackening everyone in an entire civilisation is intemperate, to put it mildly.

"But I certainly think he's entitled to his opinions and I don't see why he's been whipped from pillar to post for it."

He said anti-American views expressed by newspaper columnists did not prompt as much uproar.

BBC Breakfast will continue for an extra half hour on BBC One, to 0930 GMT, while Kilroy is off air.

Mr Kilroy-Silk owns the company that makes the programme.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Nick Higham
"[Kilroy] says the article has been reprinted by mistake"



SEE ALSO:
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24 May 02  |  UK News


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