The BBC‘s assistant political editor Norman Smith apologised live on air after he was accused of “sexism”. Speaking about Theresa May’s ongoing Brexit deal chaos, Smith stated:
You know, Mrs May is a tough old bird.
But less than half an hour later, Smith apologised for his “familiar” language:
I described the prime minister as a bit of tough one earlier – apologies for that rather familiar language.
People on Twitter argued that Smith’s comment was nothing but ‘everyday sexism’:
Obviously I'm not a May fan, but I don't think it's at all on for Norman Smith to describe the PM as a 'tough old bird' or a 'bloody difficult woman'. Quoting others, perhaps, but reinforcing #EverydaySexism
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— George J. Severs (@GeorgeSevers10) November 15, 2018
— Jane Gerson (@JaneGerson) November 15, 2018
And as others highlighted, it is very unlikely that a male leader would be described in this way:
— Fionaso09 (@SouthworthFiona) November 15, 2018
Ridiculous that @bbcnormanS thinks it acceptable to refer to Theresa May as a "tough old bird" and a "difficult woman". Would a male Primer Minister be so easily referred to as a "tough old geezer"?
— Suzanne Scott (@SuzanneScott_MU) November 15, 2018
Social media users also tweeted their objections directly to the BBC News Twitter account:
@BBCNews did your reporter really just call Theresa May ‘a tough old bird’? Poor journalism and poor choice of very outdated words.
— Julia and John (@hartynutrition) November 15, 2018
— Munira Wilson (@munirawilson) November 15, 2018
Not good enough
Calling a female political leader “a tough old bird” is not acceptable. And Smith’s apology does not go far enough. The language was not just “familiar” but downright sexist.
Following on just days after the BBC called out Andrew Neil for his appalling language over journalist Carole Cadwalladr, it’s time for our public broadcaster to admit it has a problem. More importantly, it’s time for it to take action.
– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.
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