Far-right leader slams BBC over TV appearance

British far-right leader Nick Griffin accused the BBC on Friday of mounting a "lynch mob" on him in a charged appearance on a TV political panel show, and called for it to be re-recorded.

Last Updated: Oct 23, 2009, 20:49 PM IST

London: British far-right leader Nick Griffin accused the BBC on Friday of mounting a "lynch mob" on him in a charged appearance on a TV political panel show, and called for it to be re-recorded.
Griffin, accused of a weak performance on BBC`s "Question Time", suggested audience members who fired angry questions at him at the show`s recording in London came from a city which had been "ethnically cleansed" of white people.

Some eight million people watched the British National Party (BNP) leader`s controversial "Question Time" turn when it was screened on Thursday night, the BBC said, nearly treble its normal viewing figures.

A furious Griffin told reporters on Friday he was putting in a formal complaint to the BBC accusing it of changing the format to show him in a bad light. He used the slot to attack Islam and defend the Ku Klux Klan.

"That was not a genuine `Question Time`, that was a lynch mob," said Griffin. "Let`s do it again and do it properly this time".

Asked to rate his performance, he said: "I think under the circumstances, I did just fine", adding that the audience was drawn from a city, London, which was "no longer British" due to the size of its immigrant population.

As a debate rages about whether the BBC was right to invite Griffin on the flagship primetime show, the broadcaster said the size of the audience for "Question Time" proved it was the right decision.

"The agenda of the programme was set by the audience`s own questions," Mark Byford, deputy director general of the BBC said.

"The BBC is firm in its belief that it was appropriate for Mr Griffin to appear as a member of the panel and the BBC fulfilled its duty to uphold due impartiality by inviting him on the programme."

The broadcaster said it had received over 350 complaints about the show, most of which alleged bias against the BNP.

Griffin was invited on after he and a colleague were elected to the European Parliament in June, with the party taking nearly a million votes, its best-ever election result.

The BNP wants to stop immigration and has a whites-only membership policy, although that is set to change after a recent court battle.

Around 500 protesters staged angry demonstrations Thursday against Griffin`s appearance outside BBC Television Centre in London, where the show was being filmed.

Around 30 of them broke in to the building and there were six arrests, while three police officers were injured.

Cabinet minister Peter Hain, a veteran anti-apartheid campaigner, has accused the BBC of legitimising "racist poison" by inviting Griffin on, while many newspapers were also critical Friday.

The Guardian said in its editorial it was "questionable television".

"The hope remains, it is true, that the more the public sees of his party, the uglier they will judge it to be," it said.

"Even so, he was last night handed a golden opportunity to persuade them otherwise, a chance he should never have had."

Others were less flattering about Griffin, who turned in a nervy performance, with his hands visibly shaking as he defended himself.

The Independent`s front page headline was: "The BBC gave him the oxygen of publicity. He choked".

In the hour-long show, Griffin claimed Britain`s World War Two leader Winston Churchill would have been a BNP member had he been alive today and said homosexuality was "creepy".

He also ducked a question about whether he had ever denied the Holocaust and was jeered by audience members for suggesting the Ku Klux Klan was "almost totally non-violent" and Islam advocated the killing of Jews and the stoning of raped women.

Bureau Report