GB News says presenter Guto Harri breached standards by taking the knee

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GB News screen grab
Image caption,
Harri said: "I think we should all take the knee. In fact, why not take the knee now."

GB News host Guto Harri is not expected to appear for the rest of the summer after the channel said he breached its standards by taking the knee on air in support of England footballers.

Harri was discussing the racist abuse against black players after England's defeat in the Euro 2020 final.

But his actions sparked a backlash and boycott threat from some viewers.

GB News said: "We let both sides of the argument down by oversimplifying a very complex issue."

Harri, a former BBC correspondent who was an advisor to Boris Johnson when he was mayor of London, made the kneeling gesture on Tuesday, saying: "I've never understood why people find it offensive.

'Hideously ugly racism'

"Having seen over the last few days just how close to the surface, just how deep-rooted and hideously ugly racism in some English football fans is, I totally get it why the [football] squad thought we have to say, day in day out, that racism is not on.

"I may have underestimated how close to the surface the racism still was, so much so that I think we should all take the knee. In fact, why not take the knee now and just say it's an important gesture.

"It's not about me in the studio, but for them to do that as footballers on the field makes sense."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

He later tweeted that GB News was "above all about free speech" and that he didn't believe England footballers were "endorsing the narrow divisive aims of BLM [Black Lives Matter".

On Thursday, the channel responded with a tweet saying: "GB News stands four square against racism in all its forms. We do not have a company line on taking the knee.

"Some of our guests have been in favour, some against. All are anti-racist. We have editorial standards that all GB News journalists uphold."

But a follow-up post continued: "On Tuesday a contributing presenter took the knee live on air and this was an unacceptable breach of our standards."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

The channel launched last month, and there were reports on Friday that its director of programmes had stepped down.

GB News chairman and presenter Andrew Neil, who is currently on leave, later defended the channel's rocky start.

"Start ups are fraught and fractious," he tweeted. "@GBNEWS is no exception. But the news channel is finding its feet and has a great future. Watch this space."

The act of taking the knee has become a prominent but controversial symbol in sport and during anti-racist protests in recent years, and England players have been adopting the stance at the start of their matches.

Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho were targeted after they missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final.

All three players received racist abuse on social media after the game and five people have been arrested, with Cheshire Police Chief Constable Mark Roberts calling the abuse was "utterly vile".

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were both abused after missing penalties

Harri, who GB News described as a "contributing presenter", was working alongside Mercy Muroki on the channel's mid-morning programme, Brazier & Muroki, which is usually co-presented by Colin Brazier.

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