A row over Laurence Fox’s sexist abuse of a female journalist on GB News has escalated with presenter Dan Wootton now suspended by the channel.
The 40-year-old host was taken off the air after being publicly criticised for failing to halt Fox’s outburst and laughing at derogatory comments about Ava Evans, a political correspondent for online news site, Joe.
Earlier, the right-wing channel, which has billed itself as the “home of free speech”, banned Fox from further appearances and promised a “full investigation”.
Fellow presenter Mark Dolan described the remarks as “shameful” while political correspondent Olivia Utley called them “vile”.
It leaves GB News, whose majority shareholder, Sir Paul Marshall, is trying to buy the Daily Telegraph, facing an existential crisis with the future of two of its most prominent stars now uncertain.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown called for both Wootton and Fox to be “kept off air,” and for regulator Ofcom to be given more “teeth”.
“I think we’ve got to look very carefully at GB News and all these broadcast companies that are emerging, because we’ve got a far wider range of broadcasters and the system of regulation is not good enough to cope with it,” he told Sky News.
“These people have got to be kept off the air, this cannot be allowed. I’m not in favour of censorship, but you cannot have this fall in standards and allow it to continue.”
Wootton was suspended by MailOnline in August when allegations emerged that he used a fake identity to offer colleagues money for sexual material – allegations he has strongly denied.
GB News described the comments made by Fox as “totally unacceptable”, adding: “GB News has suspended Dan Wootton following comments made on his programme by Laurence Fox last night. This follows our decision earlier today to formally suspend Mr Fox.”
The exchange took place on Dan Wootton Tonight in response to an earlier panel discussion on BBC Politics Live in which Ms Evans, a contributor, said a fellow guest’s suggestion of a minister for men to tackle male suicide “feeds into the culture war a little bit”.
Fox said: “We’re past the watershed so I can say this: show me a single self-respecting man that would like to climb into bed with that woman, ever, ever. That little woman has been spoon-fed oppression day after day after day, starting with the lie of the gender wage gap.”
“We need strong, powerful amazing women who make great points for themselves,” he continued. “We don’t need these feminist 4.0 (so-called fourth wave feminists). They are pathetic and embarrassing. Who’d want to s*** that?”
Smiling, Wootton made a belated attempt to defend Ms Evans. He said: “I’m just going to provide a touch of balance from her because she did actually respond to this earlier today, saying that she regretted her comments, but she didn’t apologise. Uh, yes. So there you go. And she’s a very beautiful woman Laurence, very beautiful.”
After an uproar on social media, Wootton apologised to Ms Evans on Tuesday night before a further statement on Wednesday in which he said his on-air smile was the result of “shock and surprise in an off-guard moment”.
“I should have intervened immediately to challenge offensive and misogynistic remarks,” he added.
However, Fox doubled down on his rant, claiming to “stand by every word.” The 45-year-old former actor and Reclaim Party founder is a frequent provocateur; in 2020, he claimed an appearance on Question Time resulted in him being “cancelled from a 21-year acting career”.
On the criticism over his exchange with Wootton, he tweeted: “If a woman wants to go on television and belittle male suicide, she is totally within her rights to do so and not apologise, just as I am totally within my rights to say that I wouldn’t want to s*** a hyper offended 4th wave feminist and not apologise…. It’s called free speech.”
He later shared a screenshot of a private conversation, apparently with Wootton, showing the pair joking about his performance.
Ms Evans said she was left feeling “physically sick”.
“This is a network problem, this is a presenter, guest, gallery, production issue that is nothing to do with me. I just so happen to be the person they’re talking about but I’m not in the conversation… It’s not to do with me and that’s what makes me feel most sick about it,” she said.
Later, appearing on the BBC’s Newscast podcast, Ms Evans confirmed she had received an apology for Fox’s remarks.
“It was an email from the editor – a very gracious email – basically telling me that what Fox said was not representative of the rest of the GB News outfit,” she said.
“That’s actually probably the best apology I could have gotten. Honestly, not to cast doubt on our media landscape, but I didn’t actually think anything was going to happen.
“I don’t want to say I’m pleased by it. I just think that’s probably the best outcome I could have hoped for.”
A spokesman said Ofcom had received a number of complaints about the episode and was assessing them against its rules.
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