BBC presenter speculation steeped in homophobia, says Peter Tatchell


Speculation around the identity of the BBC presenter accused of paying a vulnerable teenager for sexually explicit images has echoes of past homophobic witch hunts, Peter Tatchell has said.

On Friday (7 July), The Sun reported allegations that an unnamed, high-profile male BBC presenter had paid more than £35,000 to a young person in return for sexual images.

The young person’s mother told The Sun the money was being used by the now 20-year-old to fund a crack cocaine addiction that “destroyed” their life. The mother reportedly reached out to the BBC on 19 May, 2023, urging them to intervene.

Both the BBC and The Sun have declined to name the presenter or identify the young person.

Since the story broke, countless unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims have been shared across social media. Some of the BBC’s most high-profile presenters have been targeted with baseless speculation, including Rylan Clark, who was forced to make a public denial.

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell is among those who have noted a “homophobic” element to this “vicious” speculation.

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Tatchell noted speculation on Twitter over the weekend had largely focused “on gay BBC presenters like Rylan Clark, without a shred of evidence”.

“The insinuation is clear. It is the old bigoted trope that gay men are predators. This echoes past witch-hunts of LGBTs,” he told PinkNews.

“It shows that despite our many gains in terms of legal rights and public opinion, we are still targets for a vociferous, menacing homophobic minority.”

Tatchell previously spoke out against what he described as “anti-gay prejudice” surrounding the “trashing of Phillip Schofield”, the ITV presenter who resigned after admitting to an affair with a young colleague.

Amid speculation on Saturday (8 July), Rylan Clark denied being involved in any capacity, tweeting: “Not sure why my names floating about but re that story in The Sun – that ain’t me babe.

“I’m currently filming a show in Italy for the BBC, so take my name out ya mouths.”

The following day Clark was forced to call out The Independent over a Facebook post he said implied his involvement. Its headline was later amended.

Other BBC presenters have also been forced to speak out.

BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine tweeted “it certainly ain’t me” in response to accusations. 

He added: “Just to say I’m very much looking forward to hosting my radio show on Monday – whoever the ‘BBC presenter’ in the news is, I have the same message for you as Rylan did earlier: it certainly ain’t me.” 

Match of the Day host Gary Lineker tweeted: “Hate to disappoint the haters, but it’s not me.”

On Sunday (9 July) the BBC confirmed it had suspended the presenter at the centre of the allegations.

The broadcaster will reportedly meet with the Metropolitan Police on Monday to discuss the claims.