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Sports pundit wrong to repost threat to Tele's writer Malachi, admits BBC

By Catherine McCurry

Published 28/05/2016

Liam Beckett
Liam Beckett

The BBC has criticised one of its sports pundits for reposting a frightening threat aimed at Belfast Telegraph contributor.

The broadcaster said it was "wrong and disappointing" that Liam Beckett had retweeted a message suggesting Malachi O'Doherty should be "done" in the legs and the mouth for comments made in article about motorbike road racing.

Following the tragic death of Malachi Mitchell-Thomas at the North West 200 earlier this month, Mr O'Doherty suggested that road racers were "driving themselves to serious injury and death".

The Belfast Telegraph writer complained to the BBC and said he was shocked and unnerved at the tone of the message Mr Beckett reposted to his thousands of followers.

In its response to Mr O'Doherty's complaint, a BBC spokesman said: "Liam Beckett's retweet was disappointing and wrong. It was removed immediately following a conversation with him on Friday evening.

"He had not properly considered the content and potential implications of the message he had shared with his followers on Twitter, and he very much regrets the upset and distress caused to you.

"None of this was intentional. His retweet was a serious error of judgment - something he accepts, and apologises for.

"We will be meeting with Liam to discuss the issues raised by what happened on Friday evening and the need for those who are most closely involved (and thereby associated) with our output to conduct themselves in ways that are consistent with the BBC's values and editorial guidelines.

"Abusive language, or comments which might appear to condone violence against an individual because of her/his views, are clearly unacceptable from a BBC perspective.

"I hope this is useful and that it provides you with some assurance about your personal safety in Broadcasting House or other BBC premises, and the seriousness with which we have taken your concerns."

But Mr O'Doherty said the tone of the apology suggested the BBC attributed the retweet to carelessness rather than malice.

"That's their call," he added. "Even so, they are going to seek to impress on him the gravity of the matter. I hope when they do so, it sinks in, that he pays more attention to their words than he says he did to the tweet inciting violence against me before he sent it on to 6,000 followers."

Earlier this week Mr Beckett issued an "unreserved apology".He said the initial tweet by a man he had never met was "absolutely unacceptable" and had been accidentally reposted.

Mr Beckett added: "This was a complete error. Anyone who would know me would know that is not how I do business."

He explained that he was at a function on Saturday night and, without his reading glasses, was "doing a few retweets".

Mr Beckett last night declined to comment further.

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