BBC political editor Nick Robinson lost his cool last week in grand fashion. After calmly delivering a live report on Britain’s planned cuts to public spending with an antiwar protester’s sign looming just behind his head, Robinson waited until he thought the cameras had stopped rolling to wrench the sign away and stomp on it. Unfortunately for Robinson, not all the cameras had stopped rolling. Someone standing nearby had caught the whole incident on their camera phone. It has since become a viral sensation on YouTube, forcing Robinson to apologize for his actions.
“I lost my temper and I regret that. However, as I explained afterwards to the protesters who disrupted my broadcast, there are many opportunities to debate whether the troops should be out of Afghanistan without the need to stick a sign on a long pole and wave it in front of a camera.
“I am a great believer in free speech but I also care passionately about being able to do my job reporting and analysing one of the most important political stories for years.”
While it’s doubtful this rather half-hearted apology will erase the image of Robinson violently trashing a sign that reads “Cut the war-not the poor,” the protester involved in the skirmish—a former charity worker, who lives in a tent opposite the Houses of Parliament—is handling it in a way consistant with his peaceful beliefs:
“I had the sign on a very long pole so it was high enough to get in camera shot.”When Nick grabbed hold of it, the pole split in two and the bottom half hit me in the face and injured me.
“By my reckoning, he could be charged with assault and criminal damage for smashing up my sign but I’d never consider pressing charges as it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.
“He was getting pretty irate during his piece to camera and I think the way he handled the situation was very unprofessional but I don’t hold any bad feelings towards him.
“He was just trying to do his job and it must have been a very stressful day for him.
“I wasn’t trying to wind him up but it’s the only way I can get the message across, and I think it’s something that there needs to be proper debate on.
“I wish I had the chance to talk to Nick about it – not an angry confrontation, but just to find out what he really thinks about the war in Afghanistan, because I don’t think the words on the banner were what made him smash it up.”