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Sammy Wilson: BBC has taken my comments out of context over 'ethnics out' response

'You're absolutely right' - MP Sammy Wilson's apparent response to 'get the ethnics out' comment

By Jonny Bell

Published 01/03/2016

Sammy Wilson has said comments he made, when he appeared to agree with a man saying "get the ethnics out" while contributing to a BBC programme, have been taken out of context.

The East Antrim DUP MP was recorded talking to a member of the public while wearing a microphone.


He was filming in Carrickfergus last month for the BBC's Spotlight programme when he was approached by the man.

The DUP representative explained that he was contributing to the show on the matter of the forthcoming EU referendum.

The man replied: "I'd say get out of it. Between you and me get the ethnics out too."

"You're absolutely right, you know," Mr Wilson appears to reply.

In response to the BBC's request for clarity over what Mr Wilson meant, the politician asked if the broadcaster was "having a laugh".

DUP Sammy Wilson full statement response

Full DUP response to remarks

"I am not prepared to spend any more time being interviewed giving you explanations or responding to what anyone would regard as a disgraceful request to facilitate your biased political slant to this programme," he added.

Sammy Wilson, later speaking on U105's Frank Mitchell show, said his views had been taken out of context and he didn't agree with the statement made by the member of the public he was talking with at the time.

However, the BBC said it reported the exchange "fairly and in context" and gave the politician "ample opportunity" to explain what he meant.

"The selected piece, was a disgraceful piece," he said.

"The attempt by the BBC to label me as some kind of racist is deeply offensive, especially given the relationships I have with many people within what people call the ethnic community, I simply call them Northern Ireland people who are a different colour to me.

"I am no racist and I have no gripe with what people call the ethnic community."

He added: "I was responding to the question on whether or not we should leave the European Union."

Asked if he heard the comment, he said: "I'm sure I did hear it but that wasn't what I was responding to.

"I was responding to the question I specifically asked him.

"You're going back over an interview that happened three weeks ago in a conversation like that, I know what I asked him and he replied in response to my question and I agreed with him."

Mr Wilson added: "I'm the only non-Chinese member of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce so I don't need to defend myself as far as my stance on people from ethnic minorities.

"This was taken out of contest, the BBC also had on the same tape my views on immigration.

"Later on I spelt out my views on immigration but they chose not to use them.

"We should have control of our own borders, we should decide how many people come in, what kind of skills they have, there should make consideration to what public services can bear and also we should be able to put people out who we don't want because they misbehave.

"The BBC chose to ignore that part of the interview... they have tried to generate controversy where there is none.

"I have every right to be angry over the way this has been handled."

In an interview with BBC TalkBack, he accused the BBC of reporting "propaganda" and having a "pro-Eu stance" in its reporting.

He said people from many different ethnic communities such as Iran, China and Pakistan had lodged with his family and that he was aware of the BBC reporter, the camera man and the microphone he was wearing.

"Anyone who says Sammy Wilson is in some way racist or condones those particular words only has to look at my personal life - as well as my political statements," he added.

"I knew people were recording it, there was a reporter and a cameraman hovering over my shoulder."

He said that one of the benefits of leaving the European Union would be that "better immigration controls" could be imposed.

A BBC spokeswoman responded: "The BBC has reported the exchange fairly and in context.

"Spotlight sent an accurate transcription of the exchange to Mr Wilson and gave him ample opportunity to explain what he meant in the exchange with a member of the public. We will reflect any further response from Mr Wilson in tonight’s programme.

"Mr Wilson’s comments on immigration are reflected accurately in the programme, due to be broadcast at 10.45 on BBC One tonight.

"However, this particular exchange with a member of the public appeared different from other conversations Mr Wilson had had about immigration. We therefore sought specific explanation."

The DUP released a statement "disassociating" the party from the comment "get the ethnics out".

It said: "Sammy Wilson is reported to have made comments this morning about ethnic minorities.

"The DUP values everyone who comes to Northern Ireland and makes a contribution to our society. Ethnic minorities are vital to our biggest and best companies never mind our Health Service.

"'Get the ethnics out' is a disgraceful phrase. We disassociate the party from the comment made by a member of the public.

"Whilst there needs to be a discussion about how we control our borders, this should be conducted in a factual and respectful manner as part of the EU referendum debates."

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt described Mr Wilson's response to the member of the public's comments as "stomach churning" and called for the MP to make an apology for the "obvious offence caused".

The Polish consul in Northern Ireland, Jerome Mullen, told Stephen Nolan: "He [Mr Wilson] didn't make the comment but he agreed with the racist comments that were clearly made by the gentleman he was speaking to.

"It should be made clear and pointed out we are dependent upon a great many skills that the ethnic minority and particularly with the community that I represent, the Polish community, have been providing to Northern Ireland for many, many years.

"We couldn't survive in many of the businesses here in Northern Ireland without those skills and I don't think he's aware of that."

Mr Wilson is set to appear at a Grassroots Out event this Friday alongside UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Kate Hoey MP and TUV leader Jim Allister.

His comments are the latest in a long line of controversies which have blighted the DUP.

There was a huge outcry over comments made by the then First Minister Peter Robinson in May 2014. He said he wouldn't trust Muslims devoted to Sharia Law, but would trust them to go down to the shops for him. Mr Robinson later apologised and said his comments had been misinterpreted.

Jim Wells was forced to stand down as Health Minister over comments made at an election hustings about gay marriage. In a 30-second video clip he appeared to link child abuse to homosexuality. However, when the Public Prosecution Service examined a transcript of the full eight minute recording it became apparent that, in context, Mr Wells had not said what he had been accused of.

In February, Mr Wells courted controversy with remarks made about women during an Assembly committee hearing. His remarks were later found to not amount to sex discrimination or breach the Assembly code of conduct following a complaint and Mr Wells said they were a joke.

Last year, Deputy Mayor of Derry and Strabane, DUP councillor Thomas Kerrigan was urged to stand down over remarks suggesting that gay people could be 'cured' by turning to Christ.

Paul McClean, the DUP chair of Magherafelt District Council in 2012 said he believed homosexuality should be illegal.

And Peter Robinson's wife, Iris made comments in the House of Commons stating that homosexuality was "viler" than child sex abuse. Comments which the then First Minister and her husband Peter Robinson supported.

She was later further criticised for saying gay people needed psychiatric help.

Spotlight will be broadcast on Tuesday at 10.45pm.

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