Broadcaster Danny Baker has been sacked by BBC Radio 5 Live after tweeting a joke about the Duke and Duchess Of Sussex’s son using a picture of a monkey.
Baker shared a short message on Twitter on Thursday morning saying he’d been fired by 5 Live where the 61-year-old broadcaster presented a weekend show.
He followed the news up on Twitter with a tirade against the BBC accusing the corporation of “throwing me under the bus” by dismissing him.
The tweet, which Baker sent on Wednesday, showed a picture of a dressed-up monkey being paraded by a well-dressed couple under which Baker had written: “Royal baby leaves hospital”. The tweet quickly went viral, despite Baker deleting it, with many accusing him of criticising Meghan Markle’s racial heritage on the day she posed in public with her baby, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, for the first time.
Baker claimed ignorance saying: “My go-to photo when any posh people have a baby is this absurd chimpanzee in a top hat leaving the hospital”.
And he added: “I didn’t know which of our royal princesses had given birth.”
A BBC spokesman said: “This was a serious error of judgment and goes against the values we as a station aim to embody. Danny’s a brilliant broadcaster but will no longer be presenting a weekly show with us.”
Speaking to journalists outside his London home on Thursday, he said it was “weasly for the BBC to chuck us under the bus”.
He revealed he ended his “lecture” from his bosses “with two very old fashioned Anglo-Saxon words”.
Baker added: “I don’t think they would have done it to some university-type people who’ve been at Radio 4 for a long time.”
He said the accusations were “absurd, grotesque”, adding: “You’d have to have a diseased mind (to have done it).”
Earlier, speaking on LBC, Baker admitted to host James O’Brien he’d made “a huge blunder”, accepting that the BBC had no option but to fire him for his “unintentional mistake”.
“I get what happened to me,” Baker told O’Brien. “The joke was about class and the idea that there was any racial bias came out of my own ignorance. I curdled that anyone could have thought that was the intent behind that photo.”
O’Brien said he was poised to defend Danny Baker, on the grounds that “he often talks about chimpanzees dressed as famous people without any racial subtext whatsoever”.
"Apologetic" Danny Baker insists he didn't realise the connotations of a tweet which got him sacked from the BBC.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) May 9, 2019
Harry and Meghan, whose mother Doria is African American, revealed the baby’s name on Wednesday.
After the initial backlash, Baker apologised saying he didn’t intend for the post to be seen as offensive. He said: “Sorry my gag pic of the little fella in the posh outfit has whipped some up.
“Never occurred to me because, well, mind not diseased. Soon as those good enough to point out its possible connotations got in touch, down it came. And that’s it. Now stand by for sweary football tweets.”
Later he shared: “Would have used same stupid pic for any other Royal birth or Boris Johnson kid or even one of my own. It’s a funny image. (Though not of course in that context.)”
Baker has enjoyed a chequered career at the BBC in the past. He lost his BBC Radio 1 prime time gig in 1996 during a cull by then-controller Matthew Bannister, who wanted to usher in a new generation of presenters.
In 1997 he was fired by BBC 5 Live when station bosses alleged that he had “incited threatening behaviour” while talking about a football refereeing decision on his show The Baker Line. He later denied the claim.
In September 2001, Baker joined BBC London 94.9 presenting a Saturday morning show. The programme was axed in November 2012 as part of a programme of cuts at the station, and was due to run until the end of the year, but Baker cut the show short on the day of the announcement with an on-air rant against his bosses, who he later branded “pin-headed weasels”.
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Baker told listeners: “The show’s been cancelled by the BBC. They don’t want this any more.
“It’s a dirty rotten shame and a rotten way they did it. Nobody phoned me. Apparently they were planning on getting round to telling me. I don’t want to go, I make no bones about it.”
Deep thanks to everyone who has responded about the radio. We dwell amid pinheaded weasels who know only timid, the generic and the abacus.
— Danny Baker (@prodnose) November 1, 2012
Baker joined the sport-focussed talk channel 5 Live in 2008 following some guest presenting gigs. His Saturday Morning show gained critical acclaim, winning the Gold Sony Radio Award in the Speech Radio Personality of the Year award for the 2011, 2012 and 2014, and the Gold Award for the Entertainment Show of the Year in 2013.
Baker appeared as a late entry contestant on the 2016 edition of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, and was the first camp member to be voted out.
With reporting by PA