Guto Harri, Boris Johnson’s former director of comms when he was Mayor of London, sensationally quit GB News yesterday after being suspended by the channel for taking the knee live on air.
In a statement this morning, Harri told PRWeek: “It wasn’t a gimmick. I wanted to explain that I’d overcome my own hesitation about taking the knee because of what we all saw after the Euros final. And that as someone who made clear that he’s not woke nor Marxist, if I was now comfortable with it others should be comfortable too.”
He added: “Words are good but most of us teach clients [to] show as well as tell! So – though the thought was spontaneous (just minutes before we walked into the studio) it felt right and has felt like the right thing to have done ever since.”
Harri, a former senior adviser at Hanover Communications, joined Hawthorn Advisors, a strategic comms consultancy, as a board director last month.
He took the knee live on air, during a discussion about the racist abuse of black England footballers, on his current affairs show last Tuesday. GB News subsequently suspended him for the summer, amid complaints from some of its viewers.
Harri announced his departure from the channel in a comment piece in The Sunday Times yesterday. He said that GB News “captured the moment” he took the knee “and proudly cascaded it through social media”.
But what followed “was a tsunami of disappointment, resentment and hate,” according to the former presenter. “By Thursday night, the boss called and I'd been taken off air for the summer.”
Harri claimed the fledgling broadcaster was “rapidly becoming an absurd parody of what it proclaims to be.”
He said: “Rather than defending free speech and confronting cancel culture, it has set out to replicate it on the far right."
The channel has said it "stands foursquare against racism" but that it was "unacceptable" for any presenter on its shows to take the knee.
The high-profile departure of one of its most respected presenters is the latest blow to the reputation of GB News, which has already been dogged by poor ratings and a boycott by a number of brands and advertising agencies refusing to advertise on the channel.
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