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BBC presenter Justin Webb admits he 'should have phrased antisemitism question better'

Today programme interviewer suggested Jew-hate was 'not as important as some other forms of racism'

    BBC presenter Justin Webb
    BBC presenter Justin Webb (Photo: Getty Images)

    BBC presenter Justin Webb has admitted he "should have phrased better" a question that suggested antisemitism was less serious than other forms of racism.

    He said it during a recorded interview on Radio Four's Today programme with American pollster John Zogby about the row over new Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's comments about the pro-Israel lobby in the US.

    The row has led President Donald Trump to reportedly say the Democrats "hate Jewish people".

    On Tuesday's edition of the flagship news programme, Mr Webb asked: "If the party decided to say to its supporters 'look we think that antisemitism is a bit like the way some of our people might regard anti-white racism, that actually it's a different order of racism. It's not as important - it's still bad - but it's not as important as some other forms of racism...

    "What impact do you think that might have?"

    The question appalled comedian David Baddiel, who tweeted he felt a "terrible chill" at hearing it said "with no sense of WTF".

    Actress Tracy-Ann Oberman said she "couldn't quite believe I was hearing it".

    When asked for comment, a BBC spokeswoman said Mr Webb was trying to highlight "a growing trend among US Democrats of suggesting that antisemitism is not comparable with other forms of racism". 

    She told the JC: “Justin is the first to admit he should have phrased his question better. 

    "He intended to highlight a growing trend among US Democrats of suggesting that antisemitism is not comparable with other forms of racism; he was certainly not expressing any personal view.”

    The JC understands Mr Webb spoke privately with Mr Baddiel on Tuesday. A BBC source said the comedian "accepted Justin meant no harm".

    The source added Mr Webb accepted the question needed to be better phrased because "the audience will not have been as familiar with the state of American politics as he and John Zogby are".

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