Belfast Telegraph

SPOTY row journalist Andy West pulls online video

By Joanne Fleming

Suspended BBC Northern Ireland journalist Andy West has removed an online video referring to the storm over his remarks on Tyson Fury.

In his five-minute YouTube video, recorded last Sunday before the BBC Sports Personality of the year (SPOTY) event in Belfast, he explained again his reasons for objecting to Tyson Fury's nomination for the award.

However, after details of the video emerged over the weekend it was no longer available to view yesterday. The BBC has declined to say whether it intervened.

The Newsline journalist has been suspended since December 9, when he posted online that he was "ashamed to work for the BBC" following its refusal to withdraw Tyson Fury from the SPOTY awards shortlist after the boxer was accused of making homophobic remarks.

In the YouTube video, Mr West began by thanking followers on Facebook and Twitter for their support.

He said: "I'm not really meant to say anything, but I wanted to just say that I chose between being an objective journalist and being a human being with thoughts and opinions with principles."

He acknowledged that: "I shouldn't have given my opinion on something that was current" but said that at the same time he "couldn't forget the little boy I was when I was nine or 10 at school and I was being bullied for being camp and being gay".

At one point, his partner interrupted him during the recording for a kiss and told him he would be the next Graham Norton.

Mr West went on to say: "I've almost ruined my career because my employer is saying someone who is saying I'm akin to a paedophile is worthy of a pedestal in front of other people, and that's what I take exception to."

"He's [Fury] made money, he's got his belts. I think the BBC has made a mistake. I've no problem with him expressing his opinion. I've got a problem with the BBC saying this is someone we should look up to as Sports Personality of the Year."

The BBC was asked for a comment on the video, and whether or not it had asked the suspended reporter to remove it, but yesterday declined to comment.

A BBC Northern Ireland spokeswoman said: "We do not routinely comment on staff matters."

When the awards ceremony took place at the SSE Arena last Sunday, around 30 gay and equal rights campaigners protested at the event, holding banners and chanting slogans such as "anti-woman, anti-gay, Tyson Fury go away".

During the live broadcast, Fury apologised on stage when he was interviewed by host Gary Lineker.

"I have said a lot of stuff in the past and none of it is with the intention to hurt anybody," he said.

"It's all very tongue-in-cheek. It's all fun and games for me. I am not really a serious type of person. Everything is happy-go-lucky with Tyson Fury. If I've said anything in the past that has hurt anybody, I apologise to anybody who has been hurt. It was not my intention to do that."

Following his suspension, Andy West has received messages of support, including one from Stormont Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilín.

Mr West was also publicly backed by his mum Pauline Morris (63), who said her openly gay son was right to speak out.

She said a fortnight ago: "Andy is feeling quite stressed and it's on my mind all the time. He doesn't want to lose his job and I don't want him to. But I'm proud of him for standing his ground. We have always supported him. His older brother has said he's totally behind him and my husband - his stepdad - is behind him. My brother has written to the BBC in his support as well."

Mr West was unavailable for comment.

Belfast Telegraph


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