Jeremy Paxman 'may keep' notorious Newsnight beard

media captionMinutes after the news programme started on BBC Two, the phrase "Paxman beard" had become a trending topic on the social media site.

Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman says he "may keep" his new beard, after its debut caused a storm on Twitter.

Minutes after Monday night's programme started on BBC Two, the phrase "Paxman beard" had become a trending topic on the social networking site.

"I have grown a beard for the last few summers, and suddenly wondered whether I really needed to shave it off," said Paxman of the reaction.

"I may keep it or I may shave it off, but I think I'll make my own decision."

Among those to comment on the presenter's newly hirsute visage was crime writer Ian Rankin, who commented: "It is 1973 and I'm really digging the new album by Paxman's Beard."

media caption"Beard of the year" and former BBC presenter Robin Lustig tells Radio 4 that the BBC is pogonophobic "on television"

"I like Paxman's beard," added comedian Jenny Eclair. "Looks like he might ride a Harley come the weekend."

"I hope Paxman's Beard is the episode of Newsnight where Jeremy meets the evil Jeremy from the parallel universe," said Rob Manuel, editor of influential internet newsletter B3ta.

Maitlis 'working on moustache'

By Tuesday morning, the presenter's bristles had launched their own Twitter account on the social networking site.

Paxman's new appearance came almost a year after he noted on air that the "beard quotient seems to be down" at the Liberal Democrats' autumn conference.

The flood of comments came a week after pop star Beyonce posted a photo of her new pixie-style haircut on Instagram, causing another flurry of comments.

BBC Radio 5 live presenter Shelagh Fogarty noted that the furore over Paxman proved "it isn't just women's appearance... that people obsess about".

media captionArchive: Some historic pogonophobia by Jeremy Paxman

Paxman has worked for Newsnight since 1990. He is also known for hosting University Challenge.

The 63-year-old had been on holiday for a couple of weeks before Monday night's programme - and his new look laid down the gauntlet to the programme's other presenters.

"Right that's it," tweeted his colleague Emily Maitlis. "I'm working on a moustache."

But BBC Breakfast's Bill Turnbull lamented: "Curses! Shaved mine off two days ago."

Paxman himself admitted that BBC presenters rarely sport facial hair.

"Unless you're lucky enough to be Uncle Albert on Only Fools and Horses, Demis Roussos or Abu Hamza, the BBC is generally as pogonophobic as the late-lamented Albanian dictator, Enver Hoxha," he said.

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