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Gary Lineker, 62, has claimed in the wake of his Match of the Day row with the BBC that director general Tim Davie previously gave him permission to tweet about refugees and climate change, despite the broadcaster’s impartiality rules. The revelation comes after the football pundit was controversially suspended by the BBC for comparing the government’s new asylum policy to language “used by Germany in the 30s”.
While opening up on the scandal to Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart on the The Rest is Politics podcast, Gary divulged he and Davie had a previous agreement, beginning September 2020, that he could tweet about the causes he is most passionate about; refugees and the climate.
Gary admitted he is still rocked by the backlash that erupted over his tweets hitting out at the Tories.
He told the journalists: “I’m still bewildered. I think it was so disproportionate.
“There was the policy, which I kind of, when they spelled it, I thought ‘come on you’re going to send people to a country where perhaps they don’t want to go, that seems… I don’t think this is going to work, is it going to be legal?’ We all recognise this is a massive problem.
“Then somebody replied – it was kind of an aggressive response. What I did was reply to them and at the end of it I added the line ‘some of the language used is not dissimilar to that used in the early Thirties in Germany’, which was never meant as any kind of comparison with the holocaust or anything like that.
“I went to bed. I woke up the following morning. I don’t look at my phone til I’ve had a coffee. I sit drinking my coffee, I put my phone on. I get you know five WhatsApp messages – sometimes if the boys are chatting amongst themselves in our group chat it might go up to 20, 30 maybe.
“So I wake up in the morning, looked at my phone. It’s got 237 WhatsApp messages. I’ve gone ‘Oh my God, what’s happened?’.”
“And I’ve really had really worried thoughts for a few seconds because I couldn’t think what it could possibly be.
“And I thought either it’s some kind of scandal or has something happened to one of my kids.”
Gary went on to reveal he felt relieved when he realised what the commotion was all about, before it eventually resulted in his suspension from Match of the Day.
Explaining why he felt calm about the situation initially, the former Leicester City player revealed he and BBC boss Davie had agreed he would “not back down” on certain issues close to his heart.
He added on the podcast interview: “When I first met Tim Davie when he first brought in his guidelines, we had a discussion and I said to Tim ‘there are two things that I’ll continue to talk up on, that I will not back down on’.
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“And he agreed. One of them was about the refugee crisis and the other one was about climate change. I put this in that category.
“Obviously all these things will be linked to politics. So all my argument here was ‘let’s have some empathy towards these poor people that are forced to flee persecution and war’.
“We obviously can’t have everyone here – we all know that. Just have our fair share.
“Would I do it differently now? Probably after the furore that it’s caused. But I think that it’s true and factual so I don’t think impartiality comes into it.
“I never contemplated it would be an issue at all.”
Gary also addressed his political views, insisting he’s not exactly a “leftie”.
The star revealed he in fact leans from centre to “left a little bit of centre”.
Gary returned to his BBC Sport duties a week ago after Davie apologised.
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