The Independent

Bruce leaves charity role after Question Time row


Fiona Bruce has stepped back as an ambassador of domestic abuse charity Refuge following claims she had trivialise­d domestic violence during a discussion about Stanley Johnson on Question Time.

The presenter of the BBC politics show faced a social media backlash after intervenin­g when the 82-year-old father of former

prime minister Boris Johnson was talked about on Thursday night.

In a statement given to the PA news agency, Bruce said that she was “required to legally contextual­ise” a response about Mr Johnson and the words are not an expression of her own opinions and she would never minimise domestic abuse.

The 58-year-old former newsreader added: “I know survivors of domestic abuse have been distressed by what I was required to say on-air. For that, I am deeply sorry. I cannot change what I was required to say, but I can apologise for the very real impact that I can see it has had.

“I have been a passionate advocate and campaigner for all survivors of domestic abuse, and have used my privileged position as a woman in the public eye to bring this issue to the fore, notably in my work for over 25 years with Refuge.

“But following the events of last week, I have faced a social media storm, much of which mischaract­erised what I said and took the form of personal abuse directed at me. The only people that matter in all this are the survivors, they are my priority.”

Last week on Question Time, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown said Mr Johnson’s alleged history of violence was “on record” and he was a “wife beater”.

Ms Bruce interrupte­d, telling journalist and panel member Ms Alibhai-Brown and the audience: “I’m not disputing what you’re saying, but just so everyone knows what this is referring to, Stanley Johnson’s wife spoke to a journalist, Tom Bower, and she said that Stanley Johnson had broken her nose and that she’d ended up in hospital as a result.

“Stanley Johnson has not commented publicly on that. Friends of his have said it did happen but it was a one-off.”

Bruce also said she did not want the issue to create a “distractio­n” for Refuge and it has been a “hard decision” to pause her work with the charity as she feels “so strongly” about tackling domestic abuse.

The Antiques Roadshow presenter added: “I will continue to be an active supporter, albeit from the sidelines for now.”

In a statement on Monday, Refuge thanked Fiona Bruce for her “considerab­le contributi­on” to their work over the years and said the charity had “accepted” her offer to stand down.

The charity acknowledg­ed that while the words the BBC presenter had used around claims about Mr Johnson were not her own, this did not reduce their “impact” and had “minimised the seriousnes­s of domestic abuse”.

Refuge also said: “Over the weekend we have been listening to, and heard, survivors of domestic abuse who have told us how devastatin­g this has been for them… Survivors of domestic abuse are, and will always be, Refuge’s priority.

“Our focus must remain on them. Every two minutes someone turns to Refuge for help and our priority is the women and their children who need us.

The charity also said domestic abuse is “never a ‘one-off’” but a “pattern of behaviour” that is “not acceptable”.

Last week, the boss of domestic abuse charity, Women’s Aid, Farah Nazeer, said the comments were “unnecessar­y and irresponsi­ble”.

She added: “Even if abuse is an isolated event, it would have still been domestic abuse, and this should never be minimised.”

Labour MP Kate Osborne was another public figure to criticise Bruce, saying in a post on Twitter that the discussion “trivialise­d” violence against women and called it “disgracefu­l”.

In a statement on Friday, the BBC said: “Domestic abuse is abhorrent, and we would never wish to suggest otherwise.

“When serious allegation­s are made on air against people or organisati­ons, it is the job of BBC presenters to ensure that the context of those allegation­s – and any right of reply from the person or organisati­on – is given to the audience, and this is what Fiona Bruce was doing last night. She was not expressing any personal opinion about the situation.”

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 ?? (PA) ?? Presenter denies trivialisi­ng domestic abuse debate on panel show
(PA) Presenter denies trivialisi­ng domestic abuse debate on panel show

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