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Last Updated: Monday, 12 January, 2004, 17:34 GMT
Kilroy stepping up fight with BBC
Robert Kilroy-Silk's show has been suspended by the BBC
TV presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk has stepped up his fight to get the BBC to reinstate his suspended talk show.

In a new interview he challenged the BBC's decision to take his show off the air, while it investigates anti-Arab comments he made in a newspaper.

Mr Kilroy-Silk told ITV's Trevor McDonald he had been inundated with messages of support from the public.

He said he stood by his comments about some Middle Eastern states, although critics claimed he attacked all Arabs.

Mr Kilroy-Silk previously said he "regretted" the Sunday Express article, in which he called Arabs "suicide bombers, limb amputators, woman repressors".

Freedom of speech in this country is accompanied by responsibility for the consequences.
Tom G, UK

Arab journalist Mona Bauwens said she was not offended by the remarks and Mr Kilroy-Silk was entitled to make his point.

She told BBC Radio Five Live: "I thought it was thoughtless, insensitive and ill-informed, but I would defend his right to say it."

But on Sunday Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said the presenter should make a "proper apology" and admit his comments were "wrong, incorrect and very offensive".

'Evil and tyrannical'

In newspaper interviews Mr Kilroy-Silk said he was disappointed the BBC had not supported him over his comments.

There are Arab regimes that are evil and tyrannical and dictatorial and that is the truth
Robert Kilroy-Silk

And he told Trevor McDonald, in an interview to be shown in full on Monday, he was right to say that some Arab regimes amputated people's limbs and repressed women.

He said: "If they understand that I was actually telling the truth, that there are Arab regimes that are evil and tyrannical and dictatorial and that is the truth are we not allowed to say that?"

Mr Kilroy-Silk said he was not referring to Arab people in general.

The presenter said he understood the BBC's problem, as it could believe the remarks had undermined his impartiality.

But he questioned whether they really had done so, since no one had complained to him when another version of the article was published last April.

He claimed his secretary mistakenly sent the column to the Sunday Express to run again, instead of one on foreigners using the NHS, as he had planned.

'Controversial topics'

The presenter said the BBC appeared to have given way to pressure from a lobby demanding his resignation.

I clearly do not believe that all Arabs are suicide bombers... that would be stupid
Robert Kilroy-Silk

He also suggested the corporation had been influenced by the imminent publication of the Hutton Inquiry report.

BBC media correspondent Nick Higham said the corporation was still considering Mr Kilroy-Silk's status.

He said: "The BBC, which recently told its news journalists they mustn't write on controversial topics for the newspapers, is wary of seeming to endorse an attack on all Arabs."

'Something fishy'

The BBC said it had no further comment to make on the subject while it conducted its investigation.

Richard Madeley has called on the BBC to put the Kilroy programme back on air immediately.

Speaking to BBC News 24, Mr Madeley said: "I think his show should be back on air tomorrow morning... I am very puzzled by what's happened and the only explanation I can come up with is that someone at the Beeb wants him out."

"Anybody who's worked in television as long as Judy and I have can tell you that when there is a hidden agenda going on it stinks like a fish and I can smell lots of fish at the moment."

'Wrong and stupid'

Earlier, Mr Phillips accused the former Labour MP of posing as a "24-carat martyr".

He told Sky News he did not believe Mr Kilroy-Silk was a racist, but that he was "trying to defend the indefensible".

Mr Phillips said: "If we allow it, most Muslims both here and abroad will think everything the extremists say about the British, that they are against Arabs, is true because they allow this kind of thing to be said about us."

The Muslim Council of Britain has also demanded a full apology.

Police are also investigating Mr Kilroy-Silk's comments after a complaint by the CRE.

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

  • Mr Kilroy-Silk's full interview will be on Tonight With Trevor McDonald on ITV at 2000 GMT on Monday.

    The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
    "He says he stands by his views"



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