BBC hit with more than 800 complaints over Fiona Bruce's Stanley Johnson comments

The BBC has been hit with more than 800 complaints regarding Fiona Bruce’s comments on Question Time about Stanley Johnson’s alleged domestic abuse.

Bruce, 58, partook in a discussion surrounding an alleged incident of domestic abuse, over Johnson’s ex-wife previously claiming that he broke her nose.

Stepping in to clarify, Bruce said: ‘Stanley Johnson has not commented publicly on that. Friends of his have said it did happen, it was a one-off.’

The comments sparked intense backlash on social media, and she later said she was ‘deeply sorry’ before announcing that she had decided to step down from her role as an ambassador of the charity Refuge.

The broadcaster has now revealed 854 complaints were made regarding ‘the context Fiona Bruce gave during a discussion concerning domestic violence allegations against Stanley Johnson’.

bbc hit with more than 800 complaints over fiona bruce's stanley johnson comments

Fiona has been slammed for her comments (Picture: BBC /PA)

This comes after Bruce said in a statement declaring her resignation from her role at Refuge: ‘Last week on Question Time, I was required to legally contextualise a question about Stanley Johnson.

‘Those words have been taken as an expression of my own opinions which they are absolutely not, and as a minimising of domestic abuse, which I would never do.’

She continued: ‘I know survivors of domestic abuse have been distressed by what I was required to say on-air. For that, I am deeply sorry. I cannot change what I was required to say, but I can apologise for the very real impact that I can see it has had.’

Bruce, 58, faced an onslaught on social media after she intervened when the father of former prime minister Boris Johnson was described as a ‘wife beater’.

bbc hit with more than 800 complaints over fiona bruce's stanley johnson comments

Boris Johnson’s father is alleged to have broken his wife’s nose (Picture: David M. Benett/Getty Images)

Journalist and panel member Yasmin Alibhai-Brown had said the 82-year-old’s alleged history of violence was ‘on the record’.

Bruce then interrupted and told Alibhai-Brown and the audience: ‘I’m not disputing what you’re saying, but just so everyone knows what this is referring to, Stanley Johnson’s wife spoke to a journalist, Tom Bower, and she said that Stanley Johnson had broken her nose and that she’d ended up in hospital as a result.

‘Stanley Johnson has not commented publicly on that. Friends of his have said it did happen but it was a one-off.’

She later apologised, with a statement from Refuge including: ‘Fiona is deeply sorry that last night’s programme has distressed survivors of domestic abuse.’

A BBC spokesperson said: ‘Domestic abuse is abhorrent, and we would never wish to suggest otherwise. 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 was doing. She was not expressing any personal opinion about this situation.’

In a biography written about former Prime Minister Boris Johnson called The Gambler, it’s alleged that his father Stanley broke his mother Charlotte’s nose.

Charlotte is quoted as saying: ‘He broke my nose. He made me feel like I deserved it.’

When the book was released in October 2020, both Stanley and Number 10 declined to comment, while Stanley was said to ‘deeply regret’ the alleged incident.

Question Time airs Thursdays at 10.40pm on BBC One.

Domestic abuse helpline

If you are in immediate danger call 999. If you cannot talk, dial 55 and the operator will respond.

For emotional support, you can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247. Alternatively, for practical and emotional support, please contact Women’s Aid Live Chat 10am – 6pm seven days a week.

You can also reach the National Centre for Domestic Violence on 0800 270 9070 or text NCDV to 60777.

For free and confidential advice and support for women in London affected by abuse, you can call Solace on 0808 802 5565 or email [email protected]

Male victims of domestic abuse can call 01823 334244 to speak to ManKind, an initiative available for male victims of domestic abuse and domestic violence across the UK as well as their friends, family, neighbours, work colleagues and employers.

Alternatively, the Men’s Advice Line can be reached at 0808 8010327, or emailed at [email protected]

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