Fiona Bruce steps down as Refuge ambassador over ‘mischaracterised’ comments

Fiona Bruce/Shutterstock Images

The BBC Question Time presenter Fiona Bruce has said she will step back from her role as an ambassador for the charity Refuge after claims she trivialised domestic violence during a discussion about Stanley Johnson during last week’s programme.

In a statement, Bruce said she was sorry that survivors of domestic abuse had been distressed by her comments, which she said she had been legally obliged to make, and said they had been “mischaracterised” on social media.

Bruce said: “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. The last thing in the world that I would want is that this issue in any way creates a distraction from Refuge’s critical work on their behalf, and therefore I think the right thing to do is to step back from my role with Refuge.

“This has been a hard decision for me as I feel so strongly about promoting their work and advancing awareness of this issue. I will continue to be an active supporter, albeit from the sidelines for now.”

The row arose after a discussion about Johnson, the father of the former prime minister Boris Johnson, in Thursday’s programme during which the panellist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown said Stanley Johnson “was a wife-beater … on record”.

She was interrupted by Bruce, who said “I’m not disputing what you’re saying” but said that while Johnson’s wife had said he had broken her nose and she had ended up in hospital as a result, “Stanley Johnson has not commented on that. Friends of his have said it did happen, it was a one-off.”

“Yes, but it did happen,” Alibhai-Brown replied.

Refuge said it had accepted Bruce’s decision, thanking her “for her considerable contribution over many years to Refuge and the wider domestic abuse agenda”.

The BBC’s statement ran—“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 … She was not expressing any personal opinion about the situation.”

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