Belfast Telegraph

Nolan: Why would I not have someone like Susan White on the programme? As he responds to criticism over abortion debate

'I'm not prepared to present a cosy show'

By Claire Williamson

BBC presenter Stephen Nolan has defended inviting a controversial anti-abortion activist on his TV programme - after it was met with criticism.

It comes following a heated debate on abortion on Wednesday's Nolan Live programme.

One of the guests was Susan Anne White, who has been heavily criticised in the past for her views on homosexuality, abortion and feminism.

Mrs White stood in the 2014 council elections and sought to become MP for West Tyrone in 2015 with little impact.

Among her comments during the debate was that if she had power she would "abolish abortion completely" and rejected abortion in instances of fatal foetal abnormality.

When asked about her position in cases involving rape or incest she said: "If you sacrifice the life of the child you're going to have two victims." She added: "Why should the innocent child be punished for the sins of its father? Punish the rapist. Go after the rapist. Imprison him... That's punishment."

She later said: "These feminists want to live lives of sexual anarchy. And they want to be able to take care of the consequences of this sexual anarchy - unplanned pregnancy - that's why they want abortion."

The segment prompted many complaints on social media.

On Thursday the BBC defended inviting Mrs White on to the programme.

Responding on his Friday morning radio show Nolan said he wasn't prepared to present a "cosy" show and questioned why wouldn't he have someone like Mrs White on the show.

He said: "The whole purpose of Nolan Live is that it is of the people, representing people in Northern Ireland.

I am not prepared to present some type of cosy show where some section of the community are not allowed to be on Nolan

"Because they aren't posh enough or they are not conservative enough or conventional enough or well spoken enough.

"When I start to hear people, broadly, in power positions who do have a regular platform, criticising another citizen in Northern Ireland because they wanted to articulate their view I then start getting defensive of that citizen."

Nolan questioned why he wouldn't have her on the show.

"Her views are seen by some as extreme but as I said earlier, are you seriously telling me that some policies that are actually implemented in Northern Ireland are not because some extreme views are actually represented in our political system.

"Secondly Mrs White is a licence fee payer. She is as entitled to sit in a BBC studio, in my view, as Dr Mavis Winklebottom who might be a university lecturer.

"I see all of this criticism but her views are not isolated just to her.

"We know this - we know what Northern Ireland is like. It's a polarised society people have strong passionate views and some people have strong passionate religious views. So why would I not have someone like that on the programme?"

Nolan hit back at those who accused him of being a "shock jock" or turning the debate into "entertainment".

He said: "There are very powerful people in NI who over the years because they hear people articulating views they don't like, they have tried to denigrate those people on Nolan shows by saying that's entertainment.

"When actually it's hurting some of those powerful people that ordinary working class people are getting a voice.

"Sometimes I sit and watch Twitter reaction and behind-the-scenes reaction and they don't want ordinary people to get a voice and describe them as not bright or eccentric or mad or not well or it's entertainment.

"They try to denigrate me by saying it's shock-jockery. I have broad broad shoulders. If there is any citizen acting in a lawful way it's part of my job to defend their right to have a view."

A BBC Northern Ireland spokeswoman said: "Nolan Live gives viewers an opportunity to take part in debating the stories making the headlines.

"It is always our intention to fairly reflect different viewpoints and provide an inclusive space for debate. Everything that we do is informed by the BBC's Editorial Guidelines and the public interest."

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