Exclusive: Police may investigate ‘homophobic’ joke on Have I Got News For You

PinkNews logo on pink background with rainbow corners.

A gay man has complained to police over comments about homosexuals made on popular BBC quiz show Have I Got News For You, PinkNews.co.uk has been told.

The revelation that the police may become involved in a hate crime investigation comes on the day the corporation has suspended two of its most famous presenters, Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand over “a gross lapse of taste.”

The allegedly homophobic comments were included in the extended edition of the programme, broadcast on BBC2 on Saturday evening.

Team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton and guests Frank Skinner and Daily Mirror journalist Kevin Maguire were discussing a report that Iranians had failed in an attempt to create to the world’s biggest ostrich sandwich.

“On the plus side they do still hold the record for hanging homosexuals,” guest host Alexander Armstrong said.

“Homosexuals are often ostracised,” joked Mr Skinner.

During the course of the show there were a string of risqué comments about other topical subjects such as suicide bombers and Heather Mills.

Human rights activists estimate that as many as 4,000 people, some of them children, have been executed in Iran for being gay.

Lionel Wright, a gay man from London, has complained to the BBC, the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom and the Metropolitan police.

“I’m a middle-aged gay man who, in common with millions of others lived the first decades of my life under the shadow of prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and at a cost in personal happiness and fulfilment,” he said in his complaint to the BBC.

“I welcome the various reforms made to the position of LGBT people in recent years, which in legal terms has substantially reduced but not eradicated inequality.

“At the same time discrimination against LGBT communities continues – as does homophobic/transphobic violence, including murder (e.g. the Admiral Duncan bombing, Clapham Common and Hungerford Bridge killings).

“Meanwhile activists in my community, with others are campaigning against human rights violations including widespread violence against LGBT people in countries including Iraq, Jamaica – and Iran.

“Against this background I’m surprised and sickened that the BBC – funded by a licence fee to which millions of LGBT people contribute – should broadcast reactionary, hate-filled remarks which celebrate the slaughter of human beings on the basis of their sexuality.

“The episode leaves the viewer wondering: if the BBC condones the broadcast of statements like this, will it also disseminate ‘jokes’ by racist comedians which applaud the lynching of African Americans in the Southern states of the USA?”

Mr Wright said the Metropolitan police should investigate Mr Armstrong’s comments as a hate crime.

“A member of the public has made a complaint regarding comments made in the programme, ” a Met spokesperson told PinkNews.co.uk.

“The complaint is currently being reviewed.”

Ofcom also has powers to investigate if broadcasting rules were broken.

Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell said today that he thinks the joke was on the Iranians.

“I appreciate the complainant’s concerns and good intentions but I interpreted it as an anti-Iran joke, exposing and mocking Iran’s murderous homophobic regime,” he told PinkNews.co.uk.

“It was parody and satire, I think, not an endorsement of executions.”

The BBC is facing wider questions about taste and decency this week after thousands complained about the behaviour of star presenters Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand during a BBC Radio 2 show.

They have both been suspended and all their shows taken off air as the BBC investigates their prank calls to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs.

The Prime Minister and other leading politicians have criticised the show, in which Brand and Ross left messages on Mr Sachs answerphone claiming Brand had slept with his granddaughter.

The fact that the show was pre-recorded and then broadcast has raised questions about editorial standards at the BBC.

So far more than 18,000 people have complained to the corporation about the October 18th broadcast.

“Since Sunday, I have been in regular contact with the senior executives I tasked with handling this issue,” BBC director general Mark Thompson said today.

“In the meantime, I have decided that it is not appropriate for either Russell Brand or Jonathan Ross to continue broadcasting on the BBC until I have seen the full report of the actions of all concerned.

“This gross lapse of taste by the performers and the production team has angered licence payers.”

(Click forward to 08:45)