‘Sickening’ Fiona Bruce just shamed herself and BBC’s Question Time over Stanley Johnson’s domestic violence
Content warning: this article contains discussion of domestic violence
BBC Question Time (BBCQT) host Fiona Bruce caused uproar on Thursday 9 March. It was relating to her comments over Stanley Johnson assaulting his first wife, the late Charlotte Wahl. Bruce’s defence of Johnson’s domestic violence and abuse (DVA) appeared to be in the BBC‘s interests of ridiculous impartiality. However, one comment simply could not be justified.
Johnson: a serial bastard
Stanley Johnson has been hitting the headlines recently. His son Boris is supposed to be putting him down for a knighthood in his resignation honours list. The problems with this are fairly obvious – not least the institutionalised nepotism that the former PM repeatedly engages in.
As one Twitter user pointed out, the Johnson and Johnson furore also encompasses the Tories’ neo-feudal and colonialist approach to running the country: a place where the Johnsons and their mates wield the power and the rest of us are either serfs or invaders:
I'm not sure why people are so upset at this- isn't this just the kind of thing for which the Honours system was invented?
To reinforce Hereditary Privilege… Empire…Cronyism…Nepotism.
Embrace it all. Celebrate it all.
It comes as a package. https://t.co/PueiTaYpDt
— Mike Nolan (@coachingboard) March 7, 2023
Of course, Johnson is also an infamous eugenicist, too:
In this shocking clip, Stanley Johnson calls for UK birth numbers to be cut so companies profit more from people. He also talks of "the browns, the blacks and the yellow races", before claiming "there is a really serious differential in the fertility of the immigrant population". pic.twitter.com/O1Q8n2ZbVJ
— Red Collective (@RedCollectiveUK) March 10, 2023
However, the other problem with Johnson’s potential knighthood is that he is clearly a misogynist, sexual predator and perpetrator of DVA. As the Guardian wrote:
In 2021, the Tory MP Caroline Nokes publicly accused the former MEP of touching her at a Conservative party conference in 2003. Nokes, the chair of the Commons women and equalities committee, accused him of forcefully smacking her on the bottom and making a vulgar comment.
Similar allegations were made by the political journalist Ailbhe Rea, while another journalist, Isabel Oakeshott, described him as “handsy”. He denied all the claims.
The most serious publicly known incident of Johnson’s DVA was him breaking his late wife Charlotte Wahl’s nose.
Clearly, even by the UK political system’s low bar, the former PM’s father is not fit to sit in the House of Lords. So, the issue came up on BBCQT. Enter Bruce to whitewash Johnson’s DVA.
BBCQT: defending a violent misogynist
During a discussion around Johnson’s potential knighthood, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown brought up him breaking Wahl’s nose. Bruce leapt in to provide some ‘caveats’, including:
Friends of his have said it did happen, it was a one-off.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Stanley Johnson was a wife beater
Fiona Bruce: "She said that Stanley Johnson had broken her nose and she'd ended up in hospital… Friends of his have said it did happen, it was a one off"
Mitigating domestic violence. Shocking. pic.twitter.com/tnITNZRPHc
— Saul Staniforth (@SaulStaniforth) March 10, 2023
The problems with Bruce’s comment were obvious, as Twitter users highlighted:
Wow, 2 days after 'International Women's Day' (!!!) and the very day after the day @jessphillips reads out names of UK women killed in the parliament, #FionaBruce tries to play down accusations of domestic violence against Stanley Johnson.
Sickening and symptomatic. https://t.co/UOjCRPJEjx
— Patrick Hölscher (@allnewtomorrow) March 10, 2023
One user noted that Bruce’s comments were straight out of the state’s misogynistic playbook of dismissing DVA survivors:
These are literally talking points used against victims of DVA: Only the one time, we believe her (& medical evidence) only when his friends corroborate. These narratives prevent DVA from being taken seriously & justice being done. They have no place in policing or on BBC #QT https://t.co/i9W3rANowv
— Laura (@LauraCrimRiley) March 10, 2023
To make matters worse, Bruce is an ambassador for DVA charity Refuge. Its website quotes her as saying:
I was honoured to be asked by Refuge to become an ambassador and I immediately accepted. Without Refuge, hundreds of women and children would have nowhere to go. No one to help them escape daily horrors in their own homes.
Bruce: the BBC‘s right-wing sycophant
However, it’s unsurprising that the BBCQT host would downplay Johnson’s violence against his wife. Bruce previously “legitimised racism” against Labour MP Diane Abbott when she appeared on the show in 2019. She also allowed audience members and panelist Ella Whelan to be deeply transphobic to India Willoughby during an episode this year.
The point being, Bruce is a consistent enabler of offensive, right-wing agendas: ones that are not ‘opinions’ or up for debate, but are fundamentally against marginalised people’s human rights. This goes well beyond her role as a panel chair and host. Her downplaying of DVA on behalf of Johnson was deeply worrying and dangerous. However, it comes in a long line of appalling behaviour from the BBCQT host.
Featured image via BBC iPlayer – screengrab
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