The BBC received 199 complaints after a prominent news presenter failed to challenge a guest, who claimed that JK Rowling is transphobic.
Evan Davis allowed Stacey Henley, a transgender woman, to criticize Rowling’s “nasty views” during a discussion about video game Hogwarts Legacy on Radio 4’s PM show earlier this month.
Henley, editor-in-chief of The Gamer, accused the author of pushing “transphobia” and said she was active in campaigning “against trans people.”
Davis said Rowling “wouldn’t say she’s transphobic,” but this attempt to balance the conversation did not come until minutes after Henley’s initial comments.
The BBC apologized for the exchange after listeners said it presented an “unfair characterization” of Rowling’s views on transgender issues.
“We do accept that there wasn’t sufficient challenge to the claims that were made and that we fell short here,” the BBC said. “This is a difficult and contentious area which we do try very hard to cover fairly and well on the BBC. However we should have challenged Stacey Henley more directly on her claims and apologise that we did not.”
Davis also acknowledged that criticism from listeners was fair. “I think perhaps we got stuck because we were actually trying hard NOT to debate @jk_rowling or the substance of her views. We hadn’t intended or cast it that way,” he tweeted.
Rowling’s views on transgender issues have drawn widespread criticism over the years, including from some of the Harry Potter film franchise’s biggest stars.
The writer’s position is set to be explored in an upcoming podcast, The Witch Trials of JK Rowling, during which she will say that her views are “profoundly” misunderstood.
“I never set out to upset anyone. However, I was not uncomfortable with getting off my pedestal,” she says in a trailer for The Free Press show, which will be released on February 21.
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