BBC Radio 4’s Justin Webb says co-host John Humphrys ‘threw objects at staff’ on the Today show but would ‘always’ apologise
- Today programme host John Humphrys announced he would retire in February
- The 76-year-old journalist has faced criticism for being ‘rude’ in his interviews
- Co-host Justin Webb warned the BBC is losing ‘mouthy white working-class kids’
Outgoing Today programme host John Humphrys, who used to throw objects around at work that ‘would usually always miss and then always say sorry’ is a victim of ageism, his co-presenter on the Radio 4 show claims.
Justin Webb said the BBC has become so concerned with box-ticking exercises to achieve ‘diversity’ that it is in danger of ignoring prejudice against older people.
Paying tribute to Humphrys, Webb said: ‘There are plenty who don’t like him, who think he’s gone on too long, who want him ‘pensioned off’ or ‘put out of his misery’, or whatever the phrase is they use to suggest that being a man in his 70s on air is somehow an affront.
John Humphrys is set to retire from BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this year marking an end of 53 years working as a journalist
‘Most of these folks would see themselves as impeccable anti-sexists and anti-racists, but ageism is alive and well and apparently deeply acceptable in the anti-John movement.’
Humphrys, 76, pictured, told the Mail in February that he had decided to step down from Today after three decades on the early morning current affairs show.
The announcement was met with glee by critics who have long accused him of an overly aggressive interviewing style.
Webb, 58, also told the Radio Times the BBC needs to take on more ‘mouthy white kids’. He added: ‘In an age of prissy concern about ‘identity’, with bosses frantically ticking boxes to make sure ‘diversity’ is achieved, there is a risk that this aspect of diversity is completely ignored. It’s the mouthy white working-class kids with attitude who don’t get attracted to our trade.
Co-host of the Today programme Justin Webb has warned in an age of ‘prissy’ concern it’s the ‘mouthy white working-class kids with attitude’ that are abandoning journalism
‘We have professionalised journalism as we have politics, with similar results.’
Webb said that Humphries defied the norm during his tenure on the show by ‘talking to anyone’ at a time when ‘the stars and the plebs never chatted’.
He said: ‘At the BBC, as in other organisations and businesses, everyone nowadays talks to everyone. But when I was a reporter on the Today programme in the 1980s, the stars and the plebs never chatted.
‘Its most famous presenter, Brian Redhead, never addressed a civil word to me. He was as hostile and unapproachable off-air as he was warm and friendly on-air.
‘When John arrived, he blew all that up. He would talk to anyone. Shout at them, too. Throw things, even. But they usually missed, and he always said sorry.’