Comments by Jeremy Paxman in which he called the Bible’s book of Genesis “hogwash” during an edition of Newsnight have been ruled offensive by the BBC Trust.
The no-nonsense presenter – known for his robust style – also referred to those with a literal belief in the Old Testament as “stupid people”.
The Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee decided the terms were offensive to some parts of the audience and there was “no clear editorial purpose” for their use.
It was accepted Paxman had not intended to deliberately cause offence.
He made the comments during an item about Professor Richard Dawkins’s new book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True, during a programme screened in October of last year.
The piece prompted a complaint that it had been biased against religious belief, although this was rejected.
The BBC’s editorial complaints unit had previously cleared the edition of causing any offence.
But following an appeal, the Trust upheld the complaint in part.
It concluded: “Although Mr Paxman’s use of the terms ‘religious hogwash’ and ‘stupid people’ was not intended to cause deliberate offence, particularly to those with religious views and beliefs, the use of the terms was offensive to some of the audience and there was no clear editorial purpose for their use in the context of this Newsnight item.”
The Trust decided some Newsnight viewers were “unlikely to have expected Jeremy Paxman’ typically robust and confrontational interviewing style to extend to the use of the terms ‘religious hogwash’ when introducing the story of Genesis, and ‘stupid people’ when talking about those with a literal belief in the Old Testament in the context of the item about religious myths.”