Lord Sugar could be dropped by the BBC and face a parliamentary investigation after he tweeted a “joke” comparing the Senegal football team to beach hawkers in Spain.
The businessman, who has appeared in The Apprentice since 2005, posted a doctored image of the team posing with sunglasses and counterfeit handbags and wrote: “I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella. Multitasking resourceful chaps.”
Embarrassingly for the BBC, his tweet coincided with the publication of the corporation’s ethnic diversity report, which called for a “substantial culture change” and recommended that managers be given compulsory cultural awareness training.
The cross-bench peer and former chairman of Tottenham Hotspur was initially bullish when Twitter users called his comment offensive, saying: “Frankly, I can’t see that. I think it’s funny.”
Babita Sharma, an anchor for BBC World News, wrote that his tweet was “vile”, to which Lord Sugar replied: “You make me sick.”
But an hour later, having perhaps taken some advice from the BBC, he issued a contrite statement that read: “I misjudged my earlier tweet. It was in no way intended to cause offence, and clearly, my attempt at humour has backfired. I have deleted the tweet and am very sorry.”
She said: “Racism has no place in Parliament or society. Swift action must be taken.”
The row overshadowed the launch of the BBC’s report into how it plans to reflect the UK’s ethnic diversity within its workforce.
Among the report’s recommendations are that two members of the 15-strong executive committee must be from a black or minority ethnic (BAME) background by 2020, and that shortlists for all jobs at middle management level and above must include at least one BAME candidate.
The report canvassed staff who said that recent on-air blunders could have been avoided if the BBC had a more ethnically diverse newsroom. They included an obituary of Shashi Kapoor, the Bollywood star, is illustrated with footage of the wrong actor.
In a second gaffe, a BBC reporter asked Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, if his visit to Pakistan was “like coming home”.
Mr Khan replied: “Home is south London, mate.” (The Telegraph)