Radio host Danny Baker might be best known to lovers of dodgy ‘90s football for his ‘Own Goal & Gaffs’ series of videos, but a social media gaffe of his own this week has cost him his job.
The now former BBC 5 Live presenter posted a black and white image on Twitter of a smartly dressed man and woman holding hands with a small suit-wearing chimpanzee, and captioned it “Royal baby leaves hospital”.
With the Duchess of Sussex being of mixed ethnic heritage, however, some observers noted the racial connotations of comparing newly born Archie to a chimp. The backlash to this included some calls for the BBC to fire Baker.
The 61-year-old presenter removed the tweet and tweeted an apology, claiming that his tweet was intended to be simply mocking the Royals and that he had not intended to cause racial offence.
Once again. Sincere apologies for the stupid unthinking gag pic earlier. Was supposed to be joke about Royals vs circus animals in posh clothes but interpreted as about monkeys & race, so rightly deleted. Royal watching not my forte.
Also, guessing it was my turn in the barrel. pic.twitter.com/86cQGbAhDc
— Danny Baker (@prodnose) May 8, 2019
Baker later explained that he would have made the same joke about any royal birth, and that Meghan’s ethnicity was not something he was thinking about. However, it seems that his apology and explanation were not accepted, as he tweeted yesterday morning that he had been dismissed by the BBC, which the Beeb later confirmed.
Just got fired from @bbc5live.
For the record – it was red sauce. Always.
— Danny Baker (@prodnose) May 9, 2019
In another tweet, he went on to accuse the BBC of “pompous faux-gravity” in making the decision, before ending with a hashtagged expletive.
A right royal mess-up
One has to ask what on Earth Baker was thinking here. Somebody as much in the public eye as he is surely needs to be aware of the risks of posting racially sensitive material online. However, while there’s no doubt he made a terrible error of judgment, should people really be sacked for tweeting something that hasn’t been taken as it was intended? As stupid as the tweet was, I do suspect it was a case of a brain freeze rather than an attempt at racist humour. I would add that I very much doubt Danny Baker is a racist.
Former footballer John Barnes, himself a regular victim of racist abuse while playing for Liverpool and Watford in the 1980s, argued earlier this year that actor Liam Neeson “deserves a medal” for admitting that he once held racist views. He claims that to overcome racism, we need to talk openly about it, not simply silence it. Could it be argued that the BBC might have been better off educating Baker by putting him on a racial awareness or social media conduct course? Sacking him for one mistake could be seen as giving ammunition to the “you can’t say anything these days” brigade, who genuinely don’t care who they upset and get more resentful with every case of political correctness they encounter.
Baker argued that the racial significance of his tweet didn’t occur to him because his mind is ‘not diseased’. There’s no doubt he should have been more careful and using that phrase probably doesn’t help his cause, but in a way it’s sad that we have to think like genuine racists so as not to come across as one ourselves.