Politics

‘Shameful!’ SNP MP mocks ex-BBC Scotland Editor for ‘imaginary woes’

BBC's Sarah Smith reports from Labour GE campaign in Scotland

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James Dornan, SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, has been branded “shameful” after he said Sarah Smith’s claims of years of “bile, hatred and misogyny” were “imaginary woes”. Ms Smith spoke of her “relief” at moving to America where she was appointed the BBC’s North America editor last year.

She said she was subjected to hostility “most of the time” when preparing to go live on TV.

The BBC was the subject of scrutiny in the months before the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, and Ms Smith said she believes another vote – which First Minister NicolaSturgeon has said she hopes to hold next year – would see the corporation under “enormous scrutiny”.

She said, as a result, the BBC would be “actual players” with news reports being “politicised and weaponised by both sides”.

 

Ms Smith revealed the broadcaster would receive “such an enormous amount of incoming criticism that it would be almost a full-time job to manage that, never mind trying to cover events”.But Mr Dornan downplayed this by writing on Twitter: “America would be the go to place to escape all her imaginary woes then.”

He later reviewed his comment, tweeting: “Imaginary was the wrong word to use, should have been ‘exaggerated’.

“Any abuse she suffered is too much but if Sarah Smith is saying that politics over here is more vicious than in the US she hasn’t been paying enough attention to what has been going on over there, nor rest of UK.”

Mr Dornan was immediately criticised for mocking Ms Smith.

Tory MSP Jamie Halcro-Johnson told The Daily Record: “What a shameful response to a woman’s personal experiences of misogyny. I hope other SNP MSPs/MPs will condemn.”

Glasgow’s Tory MP Annie Wells added: “This is the sort of crass and hugely insulting comment we’ve come to expect from James Dornan.

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“It is appalling that he should have reacted in such a dismissive way to the abuse Sarah Smith has endured.

“He ought to be condemning all those who spread hate online – in particular extremist nationalists, who are responsible for much of it – rather than effectively giving them the green light to continue.

“He should apologise for these wildly out-of-touch remarks immediately.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton called on Ms Sturgeon to “stop fanning anti-BBC sentiment within their movement”.

He added: “If Nicola Sturgeon and Angus Robertson are serious about their commitment to public service broadcasting perhaps they should condemn this behaviour and agree to stop fanning anti-BBC sentiment within their movement.

Speaking to Rhys Evans, head of corporate affairs at BBC Wales, for a paper for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, Ms Smith said she had attracted “criticism, bile and hatred” from some sections of the Scottish population which she feared would damage the reputation of the BBC.

In one incident, she recounted, someone rolled down their car window and asked her: “What f lies are you going to be telling on TV tonight, you f lying bitch?”

The broadcaster also said she was the subject of “misogynistic” ideas that she would follow the political ideology of her father – former Labour leader John Smith.

She said: “He was a very well-known politician, he was a unionist, people like to therefore assume that my politics must be the same as my father’s despite me being, one, a different person, and him having been dead for 27 years.”

Ms Smith said her move to the US was a cause for “relief”, adding: “Nobody will have any idea who my father is.

“The misogynistic idea that I can’t have any of my own thoughts anyway, or rise above my family connections to report impartially, will no longer be part of the discourse.”

The first Scotland editor at the BBC, Ms Smith said she had been “demonised quite heavily… amongst certain parts of the population”.

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