BBC Breakfast has been hit with more than 700 complaints after health editor Fergus Walsh made ‘offensive comments about cabin crew’ when talking about the coronavirus vaccine rollout.
The broadcaster’s internal regulator released its latest fortnightly complaints report, which confirmed that it received 717 complaints from unhappy viewers about the segment.
Viewers who contacted the BBC said they were offended by the ‘references to airline cabin crew’.
During the programme, which aired on January 4, Mr Walsh had been discussing with nurse Sam Foster about how quickly the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab would be deployed across the UK using an army of volunteers including cabin crew.
‘Now, an army of vaccinator volunteers have been signing up to do this,’ the presenter said. ‘How difficult is it to do the immunisation? I’ve been told people like cabin crew have signed up to do this?’
‘The cabin crew will be helping more with patient flow and guiding people through the process,’ Ms Foster explained. ‘It will be people who are trained vaccinators with healthcare backgrounds who will be giving the vaccine.’
Mr Walsh replied: ‘Okay, so it won’t be someone who is normally serving me my meal who will be doing it?’
‘No,’ Ms Foster confirmed.
At the time, disgruntled viewers took to Twitter to air their frustration over the health editor’s comments.
Some former cabin crew staff also aired their anger with one responding: ‘Was cabin crew for BA for 24 years and do way more than just serve meals.’
Hours after Mr Walsh made the comment on BBC Breakfast, he penned an apology on social media.
‘Sincere apologies to cabin crew,’ he wrote on Twitter. ‘I know they do a lot more than “serve food” and play a vital role in all aspects of a flight.
‘I really didn’t mean to minimise or be dismissive of them on Breakfast. I’d be very happy to be immunised by anyone who’s had the training.’
The BBC also addressed the complaints by releasing a statement to its website.
‘Our Medical Editor Fergus Walsh was exploring how quickly the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine would be rolled out across the UK using an army of volunteers including cabin crew,’ the statement began.
‘Nurse Sam Foster explained that they “would be .. guiding people through the process”.
‘However, Fergus subsequently made a comment for which he has since apologised.’
Metro.co.uk has reached out to the BBC for further comment.
BBC Breakfast airs daily at 6am on BBC One.