Ofcom investigates Dan Wootton and Laurence Fox GB News row after 7,300 complaintson September 28, 2023 at 7:47 pm

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Watchdog considers if Laurence Fox’s comments broke offence rules, as the presenter apologises.

Dan WoottonImage source, Getty Images

Media regulator Ofcom has launched an investigation into the Dan Wootton Tonight show on GB News after a sexism row sparked 7,300 complaints.

Laurence Fox drew condemnation after insulting journalist Ava Evans, asking what “self-respecting man” would “climb into bed” with her, during Tuesday’s live show.

Ofcom said it will probe the episode under rules on offence.

MailOnline earlier said it had ended Wootton’s contract as a columnist.

It comes a day after Wootton and Fox, some of GB News’ most high-profile presenters, were both suspended by the channel.

Fox said on Thursday he was “sorry for demeaning” Evans, while Wootton apologised and said he should have intervened.

Ofcom’s chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes told the BBC Radio 4 PM programme that there were “good reasons to think there may have been a breach” on its rules on offence.

She said: “Clearly there’s been a lot of concern about this and that’s why we’ve actually acted very quickly this week.”

She added more widely there was a “real issue with misogyny” in discourse, particularly on social media.

Ofcom launched the investigation under rule 2.3 of the Broadcasting Code, in which broadcasters must ensure material which may cause offence is justified by the context.

Earlier, the publisher for the MailOnline announced it had sacked Wootton, who had previously written a column for the newspaper since 2021, “following events this week”.

A DMG Media spokesperson said: “DMG Media can confirm that Dan Wootton’s freelance column with MailOnline, which had already been paused, has now been terminated, along with his contract.”

The paper had paused the column last month as it announced it was looking into allegations that he used a fake online identity to offer money to individuals for sexually explicit images.

Wootton admitted making “errors of judgment” but strongly denies any criminality.

Meanwhile, Fox, who initially said he stood by his remarks, apologised to Evans, PoliticsJOE’s political correspondent, on Thursday evening in a 15-minute video – despite saying he was still angry at her.

“It’s demeaning to her, to Ava, so I’m sorry for demeaning you in that way,” he said.

He added: “I know I’m going to get sacked tomorrow.”

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Why was Dan Wootton suspended?

The sexism row started after Fox insulted Evans over her views on the idea of a minister for men, which she expressed during an appearance on BBC Politics Live.

Speaking on Dan Wootton Tonight on Tuesday, Fox said: “We’re past the watershed so I can say this. Show me a single self-respecting man that would like to climb into bed with that woman…

“Who would want to shag that?”

Wootton could be seen smiling and laughing throughout Fox’s remarks, before adding for “a touch of balance” that Evans had qualified her comments, and called her a “very beautiful woman”.

GB News called the comments “totally unacceptable” and said it was a conducting an investigation. The comments were widely condemned by media figures and politicians.

Responding to the insult, Evans told the BBC the comments made her feel “disgusting” and she had since received threats online, including a message telling her to “watch her back”.

Evans is now calling on Conservative MPs to stop appearing on GB News.

Several sitting Tory MPs present programmes on GB News, including deputy party chairman Lee Anderson who is paid £100,000 per year by the broadcaster.

On Thursday Prime Minister Rishi Sunak backed Mr Anderson saying he had his “total support” in the midst of criticism over his TV role.

It comes after Conservative MP Caroline Nokes told BBC’s Newsnight programme that MPs should not be “swanning off in some cases several times a week” to present a TV show.


Following an investigation Ofcom can conclude an issue is in breach, resolved or not in breach of its rules.

The regulator also has legal powers to impose sanctions if a broadcaster breaks the rules repeatedly or in a way they consider to be serious.

Possible sanctions could include a substantial fine or taking away a channel’s licence to broadcast.

Last week Ofcom ruled GB News breached impartiality rules in an interview with chancellor Jeremy Hunt last month – the third breach of Ofcom rules recorded against the channel since it first went on air in June 2021.

Ofcom confirmed to the BBC it had 12 investigations still open into GB News, which launched promising to “change the face of news and debate in the UK”.

On Wednesday the former prime minister, Gordon Brown, told Sky News that Ofcom “needed to have more teeth to deal with issues of standards” and “you can not have this fall in standards and allow it continue”.

Responding to criticism, Ofcom chief executive Dame Melanie said: “We’re ready to act when we think there’s a problem, but we don’t censor we always look at a programme after they’ve been aired – that’s baked into the law and I thinks it’s a really important principle.”

GB News presenter Laurence Fox. He is seen looking into the camera.

Image source, PA Media

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