The BBC has overturned its decision to uphold a complaint made against presenter Naga Munchetty in the wake of a huge public outcry.
Munchetty, a BBC breakfast TV host, was found to have breached the corporation’s editorial guidelines in an on-air discussion about a tweet from Donald Trump in which the US president called for a group of ethnic minority Democrat congresswomen to “go back” to their own countries.
Munchetty said the statement was “embedded in racism” and suggested the president had been attention seeking.
Last week the Beeb partially upheld a complaint against the presenter, ruling she had crossed an editorial guideline by speaking out on air about Mr Trump’s comments.
However director general Tony Hall has tonight written to all members of staff to clarify there was no finding against Munchetty, and to effectively overturn it.
It came after the BBC faced a backlash over its decision, with a petition calling for its decision to be reversed attracting more than 14,000 signatures.
In a letter to staff Mr Hall said: “The Executive Complaints Unit ruling has sparked an important debate about racism and its interpretation.
“Racism is racism and the BBC is not impartial on the topic. There was never a finding against Naga for what she said about the President’s tweet.
“Many of you asked that I personally review the decision of the ECU. I have done so. I have looked carefully at all the arguments that have been made and assessed all of the materials. I have also examined the complaint itself.
“It was only ever in a limited way that there was found to be a breach of our guidelines. These are often finely balanced and difficult judgements.
“But, in this instance, I don’t think Naga’s words were sufficient to merit a partial uphold of the complaint around the comments she made.
“There was never any sanction against Naga and I hope this step makes that absolutely clear. She is an exceptional journalist and presenter and I am proud that she works for the BBC.
“I have asked the editorial and leadership teams to discuss how we manage live exchanges on air around these topics in the future. Our impartiality is fundamental to our journalism and is what our audiences expect of us.”
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Stars including Sir Lenny Henry, Gina Yashere and Adrian Lester had told the BBC its position in rebuking Munchetty was “deeply flawed” and “illegal” in a letter.
Elsewhere, the likes of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Chancellor Sajid Javid are among those who have criticised the ruling and aired support for Ms Munchetty, and broadcasting watchdog Ofcom will also assess what was said against its own broadcasting rules.
The Sunday Times alleged that minority staff and presenters at the BBC have been told by the corporation not to join in any form of protest supporting Ms Munchetty.