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QUESTION TIME presenter Fiona Bruce has been accused of “bullying” Diane Abbott before her appearance on the BBC’s flagship politics programme.
Ms Bruce is alleged to have mocked the shadow home secretary’s private life and implied that she had only secured her job by sleeping with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The shocking allegations have placed the BBC’s claim to be an impartial public service broadcaster under fresh scrutiny, with Diane Abbott’s office lambasting the network.
Her spokesperson told the Morning Star: “We are appalled by the treatment of Diane Abbott on BBC’s Question Time.
“It was clear that a hostile atmosphere was whipped up, propped up by reports of inappropriate and sexist commentary in the audience warm-up session.
“A public broadcaster like the BBC should be expected to be a model of impartiality and equality.
“The BBC cannot claim anything of the sort when analysis of the programme shows that the only black woman on the panel was jeered at and interrupted more times than any other panellist, including by the chair herself.
“The media must stop legitimising mistreatment, bias, and abuse against Ms. Abbott as a black woman in public life. The BBC should be ashamed that its programming is complicit in such behaviour.”
The incendiary comments about Ms Abbott were allegedly made last night before Question Time was broadcast from Derby.
Jyoti Wilkinson, a case worker for Derby’s Labour MP Chris Williamson, managed to secure a place in the audience and was waiting for the debate to start.
He told the Star that Ms Bruce began warming up the audience before the panellists appeared.
Mr Wilkinson alleged that the presenter “made personal comments about Diane Abbott and insinuated the only reason she had a shadow cabinet job was because of her old romance with Jeremy Corbyn.”
The pair reportedly had an intimate relationship four decades ago.
Mr Wilkinson claims that Ms Bruce told the audience: “Say what you think to Diane because you might think she’s only in the shadow cabinet because of her relationships with Jeremy Corbyn.”
Some members of the audience laughed at the remark, but others were left feeling uncomfortable.
On Twitter, an eyewitness called Pamela later wrote: “Fiona Bruce basically made fun of Diane Abbott in the briefing before it aired and proceeded to do the same during the show. How is this presenter impartiality?”
Her criticism was shared by another audience member, Labour activist Alison Martin, who tweeted: “The jeers against Diane Abbott were worse than could be heard on the broadcast; [there] was some humour at Diane’s expense from BBC staff before the recording.”
Mr Wilkinson told the Star that he plans to complain to Ofcom about the show, which he branded “a weird Establishment stitch-up.”
He added: “This confirms people’s suspicions about the way the BBC operates.
“There was an incredibly hostile atmosphere towards the left and in particular Diane Abbott. The audience was not representative of Derby. Two-thirds of people were white middle-class men, whereas it’s actually quite a diverse city.
“We had to turn our phones off so I couldn’t film the incident, but even on air you can see Fiona Bruce’s body language was very hostile towards Diane Abbott.
“The producers were doing this as well, stoking it up. The warm-up was also used by producers to make misogynistic comments and find the most reactionary audience members. They then kept going out to them for questions. Anyone who voiced progressive views not given airtime.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “We firmly reject claims that any of the Question Time team treated any of the panel unfairly before and during the recording last night.”
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