‘Element of showbiz’ about taking the knee says Welsh broadcaster Guto Harri
Welsh broadcaster Guto Harri has said there was an “element of showbiz” about taking the knee live on television.
But the journalist and former press chief to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London said that, while the gesture on ‘anti-woke’ channel GB News was “unorthodox”, he was making a very serious point.
Harri said he was subjected to a “tsunami of hate” and was initially suspended by the channel who apologised for the gesture which they claimed breached its standards.
That, he said, flew in the face of the channels initial reaction which was to “proudly ad proactively” post the clip of him taking the knee on social media.
In his first broadcast interview, since resigning, he revealed he had not been a fan of taking the knee until he saw the racism directed at the three black England football players who missed penalties at Euro 2020.
He told the Stories of our times podcast: “We all know what happened at the game. Three guys missed penalties, three of them happened to be black – cue the most horrendous racism that was clearly so close to the surface for it to re-emerge like that, rear its ugly head with so little provocation.
“And having never been a fan of taking the knee, I just realised if racism is that close to the surface in football, then I kinda get it.
“I wanted to make it clear that I was not endorsing Black Lives Matter. I think I made it very clear that I’m not in favour of de-funding the police.
“I may have added that while I worked for Boris Johnson of all people – not known for being woke himself – we actually increased the number of police on the streets of London. I was very proud of that. I certainly don’t want to collapse capitalism.
“I’ve since been called a Marxist which is hilarious to people who know me.
“So, I made a lot of this clear. I just said, having seen how close to the surface that racism was, I now get it.
“I now get why these boys feel that every time they walk onto the pitch they’ve just got to make this simple but powerful gesture to say there’s no place for racism in football or in modern Britain – and so much so, I’m going to do it here now.
“I felt very clear about the argument I was making and I have not doubted the case I made since but as you know when you’re broadcasting live there’s a lot of adrenaline in the blood anyway and doing something like this was unorthodox, shall we say, and there was an element of showbiz about it.
‘Wasn’t a trivial gesture’
“I hesitate to say that because it wasn’t a trivial gesture. It was a very serious point that I wanted to illustrate.
“Over the next few days there was an absolute tsunami of hate basically and resentment, so to prompt such a reaction says a lot that’s not particularly nice about modern Britain.
“I needed reassurance right from the start that it wasn’t going to be a racist, right wing, angry, Fox News kinda station which it wasn’t. And most of the people there are not like that but there’s a lot about the so-called woke culture that, yes, I feel is hugely damaging to modern Britain.
“This idea that if people have a different point of view, that you don’t argue with them and persuade them. You just shut them down, you block them on social media or you cancel them.
“The reaction to what I did, they didn’t say ‘I disagree with Guto Harri for taking the knee’, suddenly I’m a Marxist, I’m woke and I’m a snowflake.
“It was very clearly a channel that was going to champion free speech and was going to allow people to have discussions that people are uncomfortable with having and yet at the first sign the audience were disagreeing with a point of view that I put forward gently and rationally, I was cancelled.
“I was shut down. Not immediately of course because the first thing they did clip the segment and proudly, proactively push it out on social media.”
“It’s a bizarre state of affairs. Far from combating cancel culture, what they ended up doing is replicating it on the right.
“They chose to go down a darkly alley that leads nowhere and to add insult to injury they bring on Nigel Farage, gloating in all his glory and the first thing he puts out is ‘I won’t be taking the knee for anyone on this show’ which not apparently a breach of editorial standards. But making a calm, rational case for supporting the England football squad, that’s apparently not on.
“From the support I’ve had, after the initial tsunami of hate, came at least a small wave of love and support and respect and I am extremely grateful to all those people who have done it in public or have reached out to me in private.”