The BBC has just fired Danny Baker for his now deleted tweet – a picture of a couple with a monkey dressed up in a suit with reference to the Royal birth. His explanation rings hollow – as the intent seems clear.
He appears to be relying upon the usual excuse of honest mistake or misinterpretation. We should now expect the usual “counter-argument” about “freedom of speech” being curtailed.
His contract with the BBC would have contained a clause relating to bringing the corporation into disrepute. It would not be enough for him to state or provide a disclaimer that all views are his own, or words to that effect. The BBC is paying his salary, and this is a racist tweet directed at a member of the Royal Family.
Other “talent” and general employees should note that such disclaimers provide little or no protection or cover against being disciplined or dismissed. It is true that a regular employee may well have been disciplined – but a “talent” contract is quite different from a regular employment contract. Danny Baker is likely to have been treated as a third-party contractor, and his contract would have been clear. This is not a gaffe – it is a clear and pretty unpleasant attack on a young mixed-race couple with a mixed-race baby – who also happen to be members of the Royal Family.
The BBC acted swiftly and decisively because they had no other course of action open to them.
People are rightly pointing to double standards at the BBC, given their reluctance to act against other talent, such as Sir Alan Sugar for his dubious tweet on another occasion.
This can be contrasted with calls for Gary Lineker to be dismissed for his vocal support of the Remain campaign. Providing a political opinion or support is not a breach of the law – as long as any tweet does not seek to incite or support a criminal offence and the party is a legally recognised one that does not advocate extreme policies – all is ok.
Danny Baker is an intelligent man – he must have known the connotations and decided to play the race card anyway. The red card was the only option. He may well find himself on the bench for some time.