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Michael Gove apologises following backlash to Harvey Weinstein joke

The audience responded with a mixture of laughter and applause before the discussion moved on.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has apologised after making a “clumsy” on-air joke referring to disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Mr Gove faced a furious backlash on social media after suggesting being interviewed by BBC Radio 4 presenter John Humphrys was like “going into Harvey Weinstein’s bedroom”.

Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock was also facing demands for an apology after he joined in the joke, saying Mr Humphrys’ interview technique was “way past groping”.

Mr Gove said in a tweet: “Apologies for my clumsy attempt at humour on R4 Today this morning – it wasn’t appropriate. I’m sorry and apologise unreservedly.”

The minister was being interviewed by Mr Humphrys in front of a live audience for a special 60th anniversary edition of Radio 4’s flagship Today programme.

Asked what it was like appearing on the programme, Mr Gove replied: “Sometimes I think going into the studio with you John is a bit like going into Harvey Weinstein’s bedroom. You just pray you emerge with your dignity intact.”

Lord Kinnock, who was being interviewed alongside him, joined in, saying: “John goes way past groping. Way past groping.”

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Michael Gove (left) speaking to BBC Radio 4 presenter Sarah Montague and John Humphrys. (Rick Findler/PA)

Their comments were greeted with laughter and some clapping from some members of the audience in London’s Wigmore Hall.

Other listeners, however, took to Twitter to condemn the remarks, including Labour MP Jess Phillips, who wrote: “Michael Gove just left the studio without his dignity.”

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said Mr Gove was “not funny” adding: “Given current sensitivities (it) is beyond poor judgement – it’s crass.”

Singer Lily Allen called the Environment Secretary a “bonehead” while actor Stephen Mangan wrote: “Morning. Here’s a rape joke from Michael Gove to start your day.”

Others called for Lord Kinnock to apologise, with one listener writing: “Sexual violence is no punchline”.

Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine tweeted: “Neil Kinnock’s reaction to the Harvey Weinstein joke by Michael Gove is the strangest thing about it.”

The row erupted at a time when the conduct of MPs is under intense scrutiny in the wake of the allegations about Weinstein, who is accused of harassing and assaulting dozens of women. He denies claims of non-consensual sex.

It has been reported at least four MPs have been the subject of sexual misconduct allegations while Labour backbencher Jared O’Mara has had the party whip suspended over a series of misogynistic and homophobic online postings.

The Sheffield Hallam MP has also been accused of calling a constituent an “ugly bitch” – a claim which he denies.

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