GB News has suspended the presenter Laurence Fox after he went on a misogynistic on-air rant about the political journalist Ava Evans.
Fox appeared on Dan Wootton to discuss comments made by Evans about men’s mental health, before commenting at length on the journalist’s appearance and why he would ignore her in a bar.
In the segment, Fox called Evans a “little woman” and went on to say: “Show me a single self-respecting man that would like to climb into bed with that woman ever, ever, who wasn’t an incel.
“We need powerful, strong amazing women who make great points for themselves. We don’t need these sort of feminist 4.0. They’re pathetic and embarrassing. Who’d want to shag that?”
As both Fox and Wootton laughed, Fox added: “Sorry, it’s true though.”
The ongoing row has opened a rift between Fox, who has doubled down on the comments, and Wootton, who later apologised. Fox appeared to question Wootton’s motives for the apology, posting an apparent exchange of messages between the pair on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Evans, who posted the clip of the segment on X after it aired, said the comments had made her feel “physically sick”. On Wednesday, she told Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine show that she was “shocked” that Fox’s comments about her “body rather than her work” had been broadcast.
“This is the sort of talk that you worry that men have about you when you’re not in the room,” said the political correspondent for the online news site Joe. She added: “I’d much rather be judged or asked about my work… … than have people talking about my body.”
Fox and Wootton were discussing comments about men’s mental health made by Evans during an appearance on BBC Politics Live on Monday. During a discussion about whether there should be a minister for men, Evans said: “I think it feeds into the culture war a little bit, this minister for men argument.
““[Mental illness] is a crisis that’s endemic throughout the country, not specific to men. And I think a lot of ministers bandy this about to – I’m sorry – make an enemy out of women.”
After her appearance, she said: “I was a little rash on my anti-minister for men comments which I do regret and am actually very interested in a brief for a minister on young men’s mental health.”
Wootton raised her response with Fox, saying: “I’m just going to provide a touch of balance from her because she did actually respond to this earlier today, saying that she regretted her comments, but she didn’t apologise.”
Wootton added: “Uh, yes. So there you go. And she’s a very beautiful woman, Laurence, very beautiful.”
Fox refused to apologise on Wednesday morning for his comments and appeared to be preparing for his suspension, warning his followers on social media that he had “been cancelled already and may well be again”.
Minutes later, a spokesperson for the rightwing channel confirmed that one of their longest-serving presenters had been taken off air.
They said: “GB News has formally suspended Laurence Fox while we continue our investigation into comments he made on the channel last night. Mr Fox’s suspension is effective immediately and he has been taken off air. We will be apologising formally to Ms Evans today.”
Wootton, who is already being investigated by two former employers over allegations he sent sexually inappropriate messages to then-colleagues, laughed during the on-air exchange with Fox.
On Wednesday morning, Wootton issued a second apology, insisting he had only laughed out of shock at Fox’s words about Evans. He said: “Having looked at the footage, I can see how inappropriate my reaction to his totally unacceptable remarks appears to be and want to be clear that I was in no way amused by the comments.”
Hours later, Fox reposted the apology on X, adding the words “Honesty is the best policy” and a photograph that appeared to show an exchange between the pair – although names were not included – suggesting that Wootton had found the exchange amusing.
— Laurence Fox (@LozzaFox) September 27, 2023
It is rare for the rightwing GB News channel, which has encountered many controversies and multiple regulatory inquiries during its short existence, to issue an apology. The media regulator, Ofcom, which has struggled to deal with GB News pushing the boundaries of British television regulation, said it was urgently looking into a large number of complaints about Fox’s comments.
GB News’s viewing figures remain small but are steadily rising and the channel is competing with both Sky News and the BBC News channel in terms of average audience. However, while Sky and the BBC rely on a large number of viewers dipping in, GB News is built around a smaller core audience watching for longer periods of time throughout the day.