The broadcaster John Humphrys has launched a scathing attack on the BBC days after receiving a lavish send-off from the corporation.
Despite earning a reported £600,000 annual salary and fronting flagship Radio 4 programme, Today, for 32 years, the 76-year-old provoked scorn after fiercely criticising the employer who had granted him a back-slapping tribute when he retired on Thursday.
In his memoirs, A Day Like Today, serialised exclusively in the Daily Mail, Humphrys described what he labelled the “institutional liberal bias” at the BBC and condemned the “Kremlin”-style corporation for being out of touch.
He writes that BBC bosses were devastated by the victory of the Leave campaign, and likened their expressions following the referendum to a football fan whose team has just missed a penalty. He said: “I’m not sure the BBC as a whole ever quite had a real grasp of what was going on in Europe, or of what people in this country thought about it.”
He also writes about having to present alongside the Carrie Grace, who quit as the BBC’s China editor in a row over unequal pay. He writes: “Today had to report it, just as it would any other big story. I said as much to my boss. There was the sound of some throat-clearing, and then: ‘Umm – no – It’s been decided that she’ll still be presenting.’ I said, ‘Well, at least I’ll be able to grill her about her claims – should make a bloody good interview.’”
But Humphrys added that he was told that option had been ruled out. He said: “I despaired. This wasn’t just poor news management. It made the Kremlin circa 1950 look sophisticated.”
Humphrys also writes about how he became embroiled in a row after he was caught making off-air comments about the gender pay row with the BBC’s North America editor Jon Sopel.
He writes: “Within 24 hours it was all over the internet and the newspapers – and I’d apparently joined the ranks of the world’s great misogynists. I was right up there with Trump.”
Some, however, felt that his attacks on his former employer of 53 years were ill timed and corroborated previous claims that the broadcaster harboured rightwing and anti-EU views.
The Labour peer and former transport secretary Andrew Adonis labelled Humphrys a “fraud”, pointing out that for decades he was “was the BBC for millions of listeners!”
The Guardian’s former political editor, Michael White, also weighed in, tweeting: “Puzzling paradox? 24 hours after distinguished BBC veteran – and Tory – gets extravagantly generous retirement send-off (from BBC) he savages its ‘liberal bias’. Where does he do this? In the Daily Mail.”
Prof John O’Brennan, the director of the centre for European and Eurasian studies at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, said Humphrys’ journalistic approach since the EU referendum had been “disgraceful”.
O’Brennan, a member of the Irish government’s Brexit Stakeholder Group, tweeted: “He [Humprhys] knows nothing about the EU and refused to learn anything after 2016, preferring to rely on long-discredited rightwing tropes about dastardly Brussels.”
The television director Simon Ludgate questioned the tone and timings of Humphrys’ attack – in which he also argued that BBC bosses failed to read the nation’s mood on Europe – as “bizarre”.
Barbara Bleiman, an education consultant, was also relieved that Humphrys was no longer on the Today programme, alleging he had “entirely failed to keep under control his own inappropriately partisan views and now criticises the employer who paid his vast salary”.
Many, however, empathised with Humphrys, praising him for exposing the “liberal bias” of the BBC while others said they agreed that the corporation seemed out of touch.
A BBC spokesman said: “John’s entitled to his opinions and has never been reluctant to let us know what he thinks, and while we don’t necessarily agree with all his views it’s good to see him declare the BBC a ‘tremendous and irreplaceable force for good’ that the country needs as much as ever.”