Naga Munchetty has said she stands by the comments she made about a tweet by Donald Trump that threatened to engulf the BBC in a race row.
The BBC Breakfast host briefly had a complaint upheld against her last year after she discussed a tweet by the US president in a candid on-air conversation with co-host Dan Walker in July.
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Munchetty said Trump’s post, in which he said a number of US congresswomen of colour should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”, was an example of comments that are “embedded in racism”.
She added: “…you know what certain phrases mean.”
The BBC’s executive complaints unit partially upheld a viewer’s complaint about her words, saying they “went beyond” the corporation’s guidelines, but the decision was later overturned by director-general Tony Hall after a backlash both from within and outside the BBC.
Munchetty has now spoken publicly about the row for the first time in an interview with Vogue, saying she didn’t think her words were unprofessional and that she stands by what she said.
She said her reaction was “inevitable” after experiencing being told: “Why don’t you just fuck off to where you came from?” many times in her life.
“One of the balancing acts of being a Breakfast presenter is being comfortable enough to show who you are and your personality,” she said.
“You have to show empathy. You cannot sit there and be a robot on that sofa. It was in relation to what the campaign person had said. And I do stand by it.
“It is not okay to use offensive language, or to skirt around offensive language, to make a point or to get attention. That’s a fact. It’s like if you saw someone being beaten up on the street and you didn’t go over.”
Munchetty revealed she has had regular meetings with Lord Hall since the row in September last year, saying he “wants to listen” and “he’s angry that this is happening on his watch”.
She said: “What I will say is very positive things have come out of this.
“What it has done is raise an uncomfortable conversation that needed to be raised. An ugly, ugly subject, and not something that only happens in the BBC.”
Asked whether the BBC is “institutionally racist”, Munchetty responded: “I’m going to turn it on its head: find me a large organisation, and find me an employee from a minority group who feels they are able to bring their true self to work today. I don’t think you’ll be able to.”
But she said she has been approached by a young BBC staff member who told her: “I don’t know how much longer I can stay here.”
Munchetty advises minority staff to “hold on” for now, but said: “If I can’t say something, how is a young producer going to be able to say stuff without fearing that they’re going to be seen as someone with a chip on their shoulder?”