BBC presenter John Humphrys has been accused of being “condescending”, “sneery” and “arrogant” after the audio of him joking about equal pay for women at the corporation was leaked.
Humphrys, the BBC’s highest paid news presenter, was recorded joking with colleague Jon Sopel about the issue off-air, after China editor Carrie Gracie had resigned over it.
A transcript of the exchange was leaked earlier this week, but on Saturday Buzzfeed News released the audio.
Exclusive: BuzzFeed News has obtained the audio of two of the BBC’s top paid journalists, John Humphrys and Jon Sopel, in a hot mic exchange disparaging Carrie Gracie’s efforts to achieve pay equality. I recommend you turn the sound on. https://t.co/2JvdEp4Al3pic.twitter.com/iIsRN7rOb6
January 13, 2018
The 74-year-old veteran broadcaster attempted to diffuse the situation following the leak of the transcript, calling the conversation “private” and chastising the “nasty person” who released the exchange.
Humphrys, who earns between £600,000 and £649,999, was speaking to Sopel, who earns between £200,000 and £249,999, off-air at around 4am before Monday’s edition of the Today programme.
Humphrys said the pair were “winding each other up” during the conversation, which he called a “joke”.
But many doubted his claim when listening to the full audio on Saturday.
Base language, arrogant and condescending exchange from #BBC John Humphrys with Jon Sopel about his co-host @BBCCarrie and #EqualPay for #bbcwomen Is this just banter or does it show bias? You decide. https://t.co/Kz7Xz9iHxH
January 13, 2018
The disdain and the arrogance of it. Full audio recording of John Humphrys and Jon @BBCJonSopel discussing Carrie Gracie’s attempt to achieve equal pay https://t.co/hFzxJ8cZDq
January 13, 2018
The full transcript:
HUMPHRYS: “The first question will be how much of your salary you are prepared to hand over to Carrie Gracie to keep her and then a few comments about your other colleagues, like our Middle East Editor and the other men who are earning too much…” SOPEL: “If we are talking about the scope for the greatest redistribution I’ll have to come back and say well, yes, Mr Humphrys, but… HUMPHRYS: “And I could save you the trouble as I could volunteer I’ve handed over already more than you fucking earn but I’m still left with more than anybody else and that seems to me to be entirely just – something like that would do it?” SOPEL: “Don’t…” HUMPHRYS: “Oh dear God. She’s actually suggested that you should lose money; you know that don’t you? You’ve read the thing properly have you?”
Humphrys’ continued presence on air remains controversial after bosses demanded that those who have given support to the ‘#BBCWomen’ campaign to achieve equal pay stand down from reporting the topic.
That rule saw Gracie herself made to sit silently on Monday while Humphrys reported on her case.
Labour MP Stella Creasy told HuffPost UK that it was “unfair” some stars have been stopped from speaking while Humphrys continued to work.
Former BBC presenter Miriam O’Reilly told Channel 4 News on Friday that Humphrys should be taken off the air during gender pay gap discussions – just as female members of staff have been in recent weeks.
Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey, who, alongside colleague Winifred Robinson, has been banned from reporting on pay disparity, described the corporation as “the Department of Mixed Messages”.
A BBC spokesperson said on Thursday: “This was an ill-advised off air conversation which the presenter regrets.
“The BBC is committed to getting its pay structures right and, as we have said, we are conducting a comprehensive analysis of presenter pay.
“PwC are working with us on this to ensure an objective external assessment of how we have set pay in the past, what we need to do differently going forward, and what further action we need to take immediately.
“We will publish that in the coming weeks.”