A BBC journalist is facing resounding criticism after he appeared to compare a much-reviled article about trans women to the broadcaster’s investigation into Jimmy Savile.
John McManus, who covers religion and ethics for the BBC, tweeted a link to a Guardian article on Tuesday (2 November) which reflected on the work of two BBC journalists who put their careers at risk to bring Jimmy Savile’s abuse to light.
Following Savile’s death in 2011, hundreds of people came forward to detail the sexual abuse they had suffered at his hands. The Guardian‘s article reflects on the trailblazing efforts of journalist Liz MacKean and producer Meirion Jones, who made sure Savile’s victims had their voices heard.
McManus shared the article on Twitter and attempted to draw parallels between the BBC’s coverage of Savile and a recent article on trans women that was condemned by more than 20,000 people in an open letter to the BBC.
The article – titled “We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women” – suggested that lesbians are being coerced by trans women to have sex against their will. The article references a survey conducted on social media by Angela C Wild, co-founder of Get The L Out, an organisation that is opposed to what it describes as “transgenderism”.
Just 80 people responded to Wild’s survey. Of those, 56 per cent said they had been pressured or coerced to “accept a trans woman as a sexual partner”, according to the BBC. The article has sparked protests, with many criticising the BBC for sharing the results of a limited online survey conducted by a trans-exclusionary group as evidence that cis women are being coerced into having sex with trans women.
Directly after sharing a link to The Guardian‘s story on the Savile investigation, McManus shared a link to the BBC’s “We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women” article.
BBC journalist urged those criticising anti-trans article to ‘do some self-reflection’
“This is a sobering read about the BBC and Savile,” McManus wrote. “But those who’ve criticised the excellent current piece about lesbians pressured into sex on the grounds of ‘it never happens’ or ‘it’s only their testimony’ should do some self-reflection.”
This is a sobering read about the BBC and #savile – but those who’ve criticised the excellent current piece about lesbians pressured into sex on the grounds of “it never happens” or “it’s only their testimony” should do some self-reflection. https://t.co/J0i6OUOhxc
— John McManus 📺🎙📡 (@JohnMcM1) November 2, 2021
McManus has faced resounding backlash for his comments. Guardian journalist Owen Jones was among those who responded to the controversy.
“This is a BBC journalist comparing trans people to Jimmy Savile. Beyond belief, frankly,” he tweeted.
This is a BBC journalist comparing trans people to Jimmy Saville. Beyond belief, frankly. https://t.co/Zz0TeBcIUp
— Owen Jones 🌹 (@OwenJones84) November 2, 2021
Countless others condemned McManus for the comparison.
This is an absolutely abhorrent comparison to make and I sincerely hope the reaction it’s getting causes you to do some of the self-reflection you’re prescribing to others.
— Ross Farquhar (@rossfarquhar) November 2, 2021
A piece which uses an unscientific social media poll in an attempt to alarm readers.
A piece which platforms a serial sexual abuser of women.
What was that about self-reflection, John?
— JP (@jpkesseler) November 2, 2021
BBC reporter comparing trans people to Jimmy Saville. It’s abhorrent, it’s disgusting and it’s really awful journalism.
— Esme (@discount_Ripley) November 2, 2021
The article reports a survey of 80 sourced only from known anti-trans groups, and has just 3 anecdotes, only one of which is about a trans woman coercing someone into sex. It’s the most obvious piece of anti-trans propaganda & fails to meet the most basic journalistic standards.
— Jemmancipation (@jemmapf) November 2, 2021
This is an absolutely grotesque comparison. Genuinely disgusted.
— David Ames (@semadivad) November 2, 2021
beyond crass to attempt to use savile’s victims to advance your reactionary line against an entire group of people. miserable stuff
— Stan Cross (@tristandross) November 2, 2021
McManus has not yet addressed the backlash, however he has responded to Owen Jones. He suggested that he had gotten “the wrong end of the stick”, adding: “You appear to be grappling with a log.”
He continued: “I wasn’t talking about trans people; I was talking about not dismissing people who say they’ve been abused. Have a lovely day.”
PinkNews has contacted John McManus for comment. The BBC declined to comment.
McManus’ comments come after days of controversy for the BBC. The broadcaster has faced relentless criticism from LGBT+ people and their allies over the article.
Many have submitted complaints to the BBC over the article, while thousands signed an open letter condemning it. Despite this, the BBC has defended itself from criticism.
The broadcaster insisted that the story “went through [its] rigorous editorial process” before being published. In a mass response sent to those who complained, the BBC said: “We have received a wide range of feedback from those who find the article challenging as well as those who welcomed its publication.
“The article was carefully considered before publication, went through a rigorous editorial review process and fully complies with the BBC’s editorial guidelines and standards.”
The BBC insisted that it has “a strong commitment to impartiality” and said it covers stories “on any point of the spectrum of debate”.