Belfast Telegraph

Talkback host William Crawley in on-air spat with caller over his religious background

By Jonny Bell

BBC presenter William Crawley has been forced to defend himself against accusations of having a personal agenda on his lunchtime Talkback show.

A caller to yesterday's programme claimed that the broadcaster was the driving force behind the religious segments on the phone-in discussion.

During an at times fraught discussion on blasphemy on the TV, the presenter asked the caller, Hannah, to "bring a bit of sense to the conversation".

Ahead of introducing her, Mr Crawley implored his guests, Pastor Paul Burns and the commentator Jeffrey Peel, "to be nice to the callers".

"They are expressing a view and have every right to do so," he told them.

Hannah, however, said that what she had to say would not please the BBC man.

"You put yourself forward into the Presbyterian Church, for the Presbyterian ministry," she claimed.

Mr Crawley then interrupted her, asking she leave his "out-dated personal bio out of this and stick with the issue".

"No," she hit back, "It is very much in it, because you push all these things, you push abortion."

Mr Crawley again interrupted her to say he had never "pushed abortion in my life". However, Hannah continued to talk, while Mr Crawley continued to talk over her. "You push everything that goes against the Presbyterian Church," she said. "I am so disgusted at the fact that the Presbyterian Church... that my money actually paid to put you through (it)."

Pastor Burns, who said he was at Union Theological College when Mr Crawley was a lecturer, then stepped in to defend the broadcaster.

"It does teach about respect in Christianity," he said.

"This is not about me," Mr Crawley again interrupted.

"To Hannah, who has now gone, I am doing my job as a journalist, which means that I don't take views on any of these things.

"I ask the questions the people want asked - whether Hannah is happy about that or not, I don't know.

"What I did in my life before doing this is irrelevant."

Pastor Burns added: "I am quite happy to be part of this discussion and in no way feel offended."

"I am delighted to hear that, Paul," Crawley responded, before introducing the next caller with a chuckle.

Prior to being a lecturer, Mr Crawley was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church. On his BBC blog, he has been described as a "lapsed Protestant".

Mr Crawley became a BBC journalist following an appearance on Radio Ulster's Thought for the Day.

He took over the Talkback hotseat in 2014, following in the footsteps of David Dunseith and Wendy Austin.

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