Success for CAA as our complaint to BBC over presenter insisting there is “absolutely no evidence” that Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic is upheld
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s complaint to the BBC over a presenter who claimed on BBC 5 Live Breakfast earlier this year that there is “absolutely no evidence” that Jeremy Corbyn is antisemitic has been upheld by the Corporation’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU).
The Unit has also stated that there was a “breach of the BBC’s standards of accuracy”.
Rachel Burden said towards the end of the programme, referring to her interview earlier with the businessman John Caudwell, who described the former Labour Party leader as “a Marxist and antisemite”, that she redirected him back to the topic under discussion but “I should have challenged him on the particular allegation of antisemite [sic] because there is absolutely no evidence that the leader of the Labour Party at that time, Jeremy Corbyn, was or is antisemitic. He had to deal with allegations of that within his party but there is nothing to suggest that he himself as an individual was. So I apologise for not challenging more directly, I should have done, and I want to emphasise there is no evidence for that at all.”
It would have been understandable for Ms Burden to say that Mr Corbyn would dispute the characterisation, but it was unacceptable for her to editorialise and dismiss publicly-available evidence that has been reported in the national media for years.
Over two years ago, for example, Campaign Against Antisemitism published data, using a peer-reviewed research method, showing that Mr Corbyn was personally responsible for 24 incidents relating to antisemitism, which was equal to fifteen percent of all recorded incidents involving parliamentary candidates and party leaders in the lead-up to the 2019 General Election. That meant that, if Jeremy Corbyn were a political party, the ‘Jeremy Corbyn party’ would be responsible for almost four times more incidents than all the other major parties combined.
Moreover, it was remarkable that Ms Burden would refer to the antisemitism in the Labour Party as mere “allegation” even though the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reported that the allegations of racism against Jews in the Party were not only made out but were so bad as to have broken the law. Campaign Against Antisemitism was the complainant in the EHRC’s investigation.
Our Antisemitism Barometer last year revealed that two thirds of British Jews are deeply concerned by the BBC’s coverage of matters of Jewish concern, and 55% by its handling of antisemitism complaints.
Earlier this week, Ofcom warned the BBC for its “serious editorial misjudgement” over its abominable Oxford Street coverage, attacking the BBC’s failures over the course of “eight weeks” which were “causing significant distress and anxiety to the victims of the attack, and to the wider Jewish community”.
The result vindicates formal complaints by CAA and others, which also led to CAA holding a demonstration outside BBC Broadcasting House and calls for a Parliamentary inquiry into the way that the BBC handles complaints relating to antisemitism by the JC and others.
Fraser Steel, Head of the ECU, said: “Although I am reluctant to find fault with an attempted correction which was clearly well-intentioned, unscripted and made under some pressure of time, I cannot discount the fact that there remains controversy around the question of Mr Corbyn and antisemitism, and the statement that there is ‘absolutely no evidence that…Jeremy Corbyn was or is antisemitic’ did not take account of instances which many people consider to be evidence to that effect. I think I must therefore acknowledge that there was an inadvertent breach of the BBC’s standards of accuracy here, and I am upholding your complaint to that extent.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “For Rachel Burden to have baselessly belittled the evidence of Jeremy Corbyn’s antisemitism was misleading and fell below the BBC’s standards. We are pleased that the Executive Complaints Unit has now acknowledged that the broadcaster was in breach of its standards, a concession that comes within days of Ofcom’s brutal findings of the BBC’s coverage of the antisemitic Oxford Street attack. The BBC must now pay greater attention and show more sensitivity when discussing racism towards Jews.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism monitors traditional media and regularly holds outlets to account. If members of the public are concerned about reportage in the media, they should contact us at [email protected].