A tweet that was almost universally blasted as racist, sent out by a BBC radio host about the newborn son of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, resulted in huge backlash and ultimately his firing on Thursday.
Danny Baker, who hosts a live call-in show on BBC Radio 5, sent out a since-deleted tweet Wednesday evening of a photo of a suited chimpanzee holding the hands of a well-dressed couple with the caption “Royal Baby Leaves Hospital.”
What Baker thought was a timely joke came just two days after the announcement of the Monday birth of the child, who was given the name Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.
Baker has deleted the tweet and issued an apology, calling it a “stupid gag,” however, BBC swiftly terminated his employment, understanding the offense to Markle, who is African American, and essentially the entire Black Diaspora.
“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,” Baker said. “Soon as those good enough to point out it’s possible connotations got in touch, down it came. And that’s it.”
— Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) May 9, 2019
The Guardian reports a secondary apology came on Twitter where the broadcaster stated “Sincere apologies for the stupid unthinking gag pic earlier. Was supposed to be joke about royals vs circus animals in posh clothes but interpreted as about monkeys & race, so rightly deleted.”
In response to his firing, Baker stated he “could hear the suits knees knocking” and he was thrown under the bus.
“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,” a BBC spokesperson stated. Baker has been employed by the BBC off and on since the 1980s.
In a subsequent interview with British radio network LBC, Baker continued to state his message was about class and not about race. Opposing his statement, many point his self-admitted ignorance and attempt to dismiss the message that came from the joke as unacceptable.
“To claim ‘ignorance’, and give a half-hearted apology – again full of jokey ‘banter’ – despite people highlighting just how clearly offensive it is, is also unacceptable,” Charlene White, an ITV network news anchor, said.
British actress Kelechi Okafor penned an essay for the British newspaper Metro UK, lambasting Baker for not only the tweet, but that blunders like his are often “explained away.”
“For those who are perplexed as to why the tweet by Danny is so offensive, it is important to address the fact that Meghan’s mother is a Black woman,” Okafor wrote. “It is Archie’s proximity to blackness that inspired Danny’s tweet of a monkey, whether he chooses to acknowledge this or not.
“A baby who hasn’t even had a chance to really experience the world is already stripped of his humanity because of his blackness,” she continued, calling the BBC’s decision the right move. “I want better for Archie, for my unborn child and for all our children.”