Andrew Neil has revealed why he stepped down as chairman of GB News, hinting that he was unhappy with the way the channel covered news and describing how he was a “minority of one” when it came to its future direction.
The journalist and broadcaster, 72, made his first TV appearance on BBC’s Question Time since announcing his departure, blaming the move on a difference in opinion with “other senior managers and the board of GB News.”
Neil said: “I thought it wasn’t for me, I had wanted a different route – it doesn’t mean that I’m right or they’re wrong but it certainly was a difference.
“More and more differences emerged between myself and the other senior managers.”
— BBC Question Time (@bbcquestiontime) September 16, 2021
“The differences were such that the direction they were going in was not the direction that I had outlined, it was not the direction I had envisaged for the channel.
“But I was in a minority of one, so it’s doing what it’s doing and it’s up to them. Good luck to them if that’s what they want to do.”
Neil went on to address comparisons between GB News and Fox News, saying he had “always made it clear it wouldn’t be a British Fox news”.
He blasted Fox, saying the channel “deals in untruths, deal with conspiracy theories and deals in fake news.”
“That’s not my kind of journalism and I would never have set out to do that,” he added.
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When host Fiona Bruce asked whether that was the reason he quit GB News, Neil made a not-so-subtle dig at his former channel, adding: “I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to why I’m here and not with GB News.”
But not everyone was convinced Neil’s explanation on why he quit the channel with fellow Question Time panellist, former banker and writer Nels Abbey, challenging him on these points.
Abbey began by revealing two copies of a pre-launch exclusive on GB News in The Sunday Express’, with the headline: “Why Britain’s new TV news channel won’t be woke”.
Came for the posting on #bbcqt, and boy, I did not leave disappointed: pic.twitter.com/ecavgQaVq5
— William Kedjanyi (@KeejayOV3) September 16, 2021
“I posit it to you, Andrew, that you actually knew exactly what you guys were setting up,” said Abbey. “When you used the word ‘woke’ as a pejorative, I put it to you that… you exactly knew the dog you were blowing that whistle at.”
But Neil questioned in response: “So, why am I not still there? If you’re saying that what’s happened is what I wanted, why would I be here tonight and not still there?”
He added: “You don’t know me. You are assuming things of which you have no knowledge whatsoever.”
Abbey hit back, describing how GB News was a very “shoddy” channel and that, when it came out, “it was embarrassing to watch.”
Neil, who is also chairman of The Spectator, hit back: “For somebody who has never met me you seem to know a hell of a lot about me. When you do your homework maybe you’ll come back and apologise and we can have a sensible conversation.”
Question Time viewers took to Twitter to share their thoughts on the exchange, with many doubting Neil’s reason for leaving, suggesting he always knew what the channel would become.
Andrew Neil sets up anti- woke far right news channel. It’s dire, he’s embarrassed & resigns. Straight on to #bbcqt
— Mr Ethical (@nw_nicholas) September 16, 2021
It’s lovely to think that more people watched Andrew Neil attempting to disappear into the puce-coloured wallpaper on Question Time as he tried to explain away accidentally setting up a far-right wingnut echo chamber than will ever watch said far-right wingnut echo chamber. pic.twitter.com/hnvqg8GMkE
— Mark Kermode (@KermodeMovie) September 17, 2021
Andrew Neil being called out for legitimising dog whistling is beautiful. #bbcqt pic.twitter.com/7GjIohJFsw
— Eddie Burfi (@EddieBurfi) September 16, 2021
Andrew Neil currently being slapped around on Question Time. He’s not enjoying it. 😉
— Withnail Jones (@withnailjones) September 16, 2021
Neil gets his pants pulled down https://t.co/QSnfRuFXzU
— Ben Murphy (@BenM_Kent) September 17, 2021
I started a far-right news channel by mistake pic.twitter.com/BAmOZ4wcGY
— Craig (@craigare) September 16, 2021
My man came with receipts the way his face dropped at the 10 second mark💀💀💀 https://t.co/EPvgR4XjJy
— MCMXCVI (@safeeyah__x) September 17, 2021
He got out the RECEIPTS and said here’s the A4 and the A1 in case you couldn’t see it the first time 😂😂 https://t.co/eZ4yXKZrgt
— B 🇱🇨✝️ (@honeycombcookie) September 17, 2021
Many, including a former GB News colleague, praised Neil for the way he explained his departure:
— Alastair Stewart (@AlStewartOBE) September 16, 2021
Since launching back in June, GB News has been plagued with mishaps, with Neil admitting during his appearance on Question Time that it wasn’t a “startling success”. A number of staff have also left, including Guto Harri, who quit the channel following a row over him taking the knee during a debate on the racism directed towards England football players.
In response to Neil’s departure, GB News said in a statement: “Andrew is, without doubt, one of the finest journalists and interviewers in this country.
“GB News thanks him for his 12 months of leadership, wisdom and advice and we wish him well.”
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