A row over Laurence Fox’s sexist abuse of a female journalist at GB News has escalated, with presenter Dan Wootton now suspended from the broadcaster.
The 40-year-old host was taken off the show after he was publicly criticized for failing to stop Fox’s tantrum and laughing at derogatory comments about Ava Evans, a political correspondent for the online news site Joe.
The right-wing broadcaster, which describes itself as the “home of free expression,” had previously banned Fox from further appearances and promised a “comprehensive investigation.”
Fellow host Mark Dolan described the comments as “shameful,” while political correspondent Olivia Utley described them as “disgusting.”
That leaves GB News, whose majority shareholder Sir Paul Marshall is trying to buy it Daily Telegraphis in an existential crisis and the future of two of its best-known stars is uncertain.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown called for both Wootton and Fox to be “kept off the air” and for regulator Ofcom to be given more “teeth”.
“I think we need to look very closely at GB News and all these emerging broadcasters because we have a much wider choice of broadcasters and the regulatory system isn’t good enough to cope with that,” he told Sky News.
“These people must be kept away from the air, this cannot be allowed to happen. I’m not in favor of censorship, but you can’t allow standards to drop and this to continue.”
Wootton was suspended MailOnline in August when allegations emerged that he used a false identity to offer colleagues money in exchange for sexual material – allegations he has strongly denied.
GB News described Fox’s comments as “completely unacceptable”, adding: “GB News has suspended Dan Wootton following comments Laurence Fox made on his show last night. This follows our decision today to formally suspend Mr Fox.”
The exchange took place on Dan Wootton tonight in response to an earlier panel discussion on BBC Politics Live In it, Ms. Evans, a contributor, said another guest’s suggestion of a men’s minister to combat male suicide “feeds a little bit into the culture war.”
Fox said: “We’re past the tipping point, so I can say this: Show me a single self-respecting man who wants to climb into bed with this woman, forever and ever. This little woman was fed oppression day after day, starting with the lie about the gender pay gap.”
“We need strong, powerful, amazing women making great arguments for themselves,” he continued. “We don’t need these feminists 4.0 (the so-called fourth wave feminists). They are pathetic and embarrassing. Who would want to fuck that?”
Smiling, Wootton made a belated attempt to defend Ms. Evans. He said: “I just want to offer her a little compensation because she actually responded today and said she regretted her comments but hadn’t apologized. Uh, yes. Here you go. And she is a very beautiful woman, Laurence, very beautiful.”
Following an uproar on social media, Wootton apologized to Ms Evans on Tuesday night, before issuing a further statement on Wednesday in which he said his on-air smile was the result of “shock and surprise at an unprepared moment”.
“I should have intervened immediately to challenge offensive and misogynistic comments,” he added.
However, Fox escalated his tirade and claimed to “stand by every word.” The 45-year-old former actor and founder of the Reclaim Party is a frequent provocateur; in 2020 he made an appearance at Question time resulted in him being “cancelled from a 21-year acting career.”
In response to criticism of his exchange with Wootton, he tweeted: “If a woman wants to go on TV and trivialize men’s suicide, she has every right to do so and not apologize, just as I have every right to do so.” “I don’t want to insult a hyper-offended 4th wave feminist and I don’t want to apologize… That’s called free speech.”
He later shared a screenshot of a private conversation, apparently with Wootton, in which the pair joked about his appearance.
Ms Evans said she felt “physically ill”.
“This is a network issue, this is a host, guest, gallery, or production issue that has nothing to do with me. “I happen to be the person they’re talking about, but I’m not part of the conversation… This has nothing to do with me and that’s what makes me sick the most,” she said.
He later appeared on the BBC newscast On the podcast, Ms Evans confirmed that she had received an apology for Fox’s comments.
“It was an email from the editor – a very friendly email – basically telling me that what Fox was saying was not representative of the rest of the GB News team,” she said.
“That’s probably the best excuse I could get. Honestly, I don’t want to question our media landscape, but I actually didn’t think anything would happen.
“I don’t want to say I’m happy with it. I just think this is probably the best result I could have hoped for.”
A spokesman said Ofcom had received a number of complaints about the incident and was reviewing them against its rules.