The BBC is under pressure to make a public apology for one of its presenters insinuating that Prince Harry took cocaine.
The satirical news programme, Have I Got News For You, suggested that Harry snorted cocaine in a story related to the christening of Prince George.
The presenter, Jo Brand, began making jokes about the names of Prince George’s seven godparents before reading from an autocue – “George’s godparents include Hugh van Cutsem… I presume that’s a nickname as in Hugh van cuts ’em and Harry then snorts ’em.”
The camera shot then cut to panelist Paul Merton who genuinely looked shocked by what Ms Brand, 56, had just said. Ian Hislop then asked, “Have we lost our lawyers?” The fact that Mr Hislop acknowledged that the comment was defamatory, suggests that the BBC knew of the allegations it was broadcasting.
The programme is filmed on Thursdays to give time for the BBC lawyers and executives to edit out risky and possibly defamatory comments and material. The programme is then aired on Friday.
Ms Brand insisted that she was not the one who wrote the joke but accepted “culpability” for reading it out. The BBC also did not do their research properly as they claimed the late Hugh van Cutsem, who died last month, was the godparent; whereas his son, William Van Cutsem is actually George’s godparent.
Since the programme was aired, critics have been complaining to the BBC for defaming the Prince who is a captain with the Army Air Corps and has served on two tours of duty in Afghanistan.
Anna Soubry, the Conservative defence minister, said that “Jo Brand should not have stooped to that level, and both she and the BBC should apologise. It is a really cheap shot at somebody who has no right of reply, and they know will not sue for libel. The BBC should know better than to broadcast this. The programme is not live and this should have been edited out.”
On Saturday night, Brand, who is a member of Republic, said “I didn’t write it. I read it out from the autocue. I thought it was funny. I don’t really understand what the fuss is about. I am not going to apologise. I didn’t write it but I did say it, so I am culpable in some way”.
The BBC was also criticised last week for only showing 2 minutes coverage of Prince George’s christening on its main news programmes the BBC News at Six and the BBC News at Ten.
Clarence House has declined to comment saying “this is not something we would respond to [or] comment on”.